Ovarian cancer doesn’t just affect the people who have it. It also affects their family, friends, and other loved ones.
If you’re helping care for someone with ovarian cancer, you might find it challenging to provide the support they need while also practicing self-care.
Here’s what caregivers need to know.
Ovarian cancer may have diverse effects on your loved one’s physical and mental health.
They may struggle with cancer-related symptoms or side effects from treatment, such as fatigue, nausea, and pain.
This might make it hard for them to complete routine tasks.
To help manage the effects and demands of their condition, your loved one may need or want assistance with:
- scheduling medical appointments
- coordinating travel to and from medical appointments
- taking notes during medical appointments
- picking up medications from the pharmacy
- picking up groceries and preparing food
- completing chores or childcare duties
- bathing, dressing, or other self-care activities
You or another caregiver may be able to help your loved one with these tasks.
An ovarian cancer diagnosis may be stressful and frightening.
Your loved one may be coping with feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, anger, grief, or other challenging emotions.
Try not to tell them how they should feel about their condition. People with cancer may experience a wide range of emotions — and that’s normal.
Focus instead on listening to them without judgment. Let them know that they can talk to you if they want. If they don’t feel like talking right now, let them know that’s OK, too.
Caring for someone with ovarian cancer may be physically, emotionally, and financially challenging.
Over time, you may find yourself experiencing caregiver burnout. You might find it difficult to support your loved one while also managing your feelings about their condition and your day-to-day responsibilities.
It’s essential to recognize your limits and needs. Try to set realistic expectations for yourself — and cut yourself some slack whenever you can.
Making time for self-care might be difficult, but it’s important for maintaining your physical and emotional health.
Aim to make time in your weekly schedule to:
- get some exercise
- prepare or order some nourishing meals for yourself
- rest and recharge your emotional batteries
These self-care habits may make a significant difference to your well-being.
Reaching out for assistance from others may help you find the time you need for self-care and other activities while acting as a caregiver.
If you can afford to pay for outside support, it may be helpful to consider hiring a personal support worker or home nurse to help care for your loved one.
Some nonprofit organizations also offer low-cost or free respite care services, which may be available in your community.
You may also be able to outsource some of your other responsibilities, for example, by hiring:
- a house cleaning service to help with household chores
- a lawn care and landscaping service to help with yard work
- a babysitter to help with childcare
Asking friends and family members for support is another strategy that caregivers can use to help lighten their loads.
Your community may also spontaneously offer to help. Remember that when people offer help, it’s usually because they truly want to show their support, though they may not know what you need. It’s OK to take them up on their offer and even to provide specific requests about what they can do.
Your friends and family members may be able and willing to:
- pick up medications, buy groceries, or run other errands
- wash or fold laundry, vacuum your home, or shovel your driveway
- cook a few meals to help stock your refrigerator or freezer
- help with childcare or eldercare for a few hours
- drive your loved one to medical appointments
- visit with your loved one
Your friends and family may also be able to lend you a sympathetic ear when you need to talk about the challenges that you’ve been facing.
If you’re facing financial challenges related to your loved one’s diagnosis or your caregiving responsibilities, consider asking your loved one’s treatment team for a referral to a financial counselor.
Your loved one’s treatment center may have financial counselors on staff who can help set up a payment plan for managing the costs of care. They may also know about financial assistance programs for which you or your loved one might be eligible.
The following organizations also offer tips and resources for managing cancer-related costs:
- American Cancer Society
- American Society of Clinical Oncology
- Cancer Care
- Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition
If you need to take time off work to care for your loved one, talk to your employer to learn if they offer paid family medical leave.
If you’re struggling with feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, grief, or guilt, you’re not alone. It’s common for caregivers of people with cancer to experience challenging emotions.
Try to give yourself time to process your feelings. If you’re finding it difficult to cope with them, consider asking your doctor for a referral to a mental health counselor or support group.
You can also connect with other caregivers online. For example, consider joining the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance’s Inspire Online Support Community.
Helping to care for someone with ovarian cancer may be challenging. Understanding your limits and needs as a caregiver is essential.
Reaching out for help from others may help you meet your loved one’s needs while making time for self-care and other responsibilities.
Family members and friends, members of your loved one’s treatment team, and professional support services may provide the help you need.