This is what caregiver life actually looks like.

I’ll never forget the day my dad was diagnosed with cancer.  It was the very first day of my caregiver life, even though I didn’t know it then.

He’d been having some really strange symptoms and had been to at least 10 different specialists trying to find someone who could help him.

That day he called me at work and said that there was a doctor in NYC that might be able to help him and he’d managed to get an appointment tomorrow morning… could we go down tonight?

As we got in the car to leave, I was excitedly talking about the new doctor.  “This is a great idea,” I said, they have so much more experience in the City.”  “I think we’re going to finally get some answers.”

“Well”, he said.  “I think we may already have the answer.”  “They found something on my lung.”

“Wait, what?”  “What does that mean.”

And that’s when the shit show began.

He was diagnosed with Lung Cancer and I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen to us.  

You can’t possibly prepare for caregiver life.  It’s like getting pulled into a riptide and fighting like hell so you don’t drown. 

It’s sink or swim.  

This is what caregiver life actually looks like.

Stress

stressed woman sitting on couch alone at home

The stress involved in a cancer situation is crazy intense.  

There is information flying at you from every direction.  There is way too much for any one person to do.  And you’re literally worried about everything.

Caregiver life is exhausting.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.  I spent a lot of time in a zombie-like state.  Just going through the motions, trying to keep up and push through.

It’s the intense stress, the lack of sleep (trust me, you’ll NEVER feel like you got enough sleep!), and the fact that every single aspect of your day is focused on what someone else needs, while what you need goes on the back burner.

It saps your energy and literally drains you.  

You’re just going through the motions and trying to make it through the day.  When you finally reach the moment you’ve been waiting for and it’s time to rest and recharge, you can’t sleep.

I mean you’ve dragged yourself through the entire day, barely able to function from exhaustion and now you can’t sleep.  You just lay there, frustrated and exhausted.  Feeling all of the fear, all of the stress, and all of the anxiety running through your head.

There are days that you can barely get out of bed, even though you know that you have to push through and run the marathon day that is in front of you. 

 It sucks.  Feeling like this.  

After about a month or so, you won’t even remember what it feels like to have energy.  You just learn to live in a physically and emotionally exhausted state and you get used to it and more importantly, you figure out how to work through it.

Caregiver life means there are challenges coming at you from every angle.  Everything feels like a challenge.  Getting to the dr office, getting the laundry done, making dinner… 

You become so consumed with everything that has to be done that you sacrifice the time you desperately need to relax and unwind.  

Our Best Coping Tips For Stress

Dog resting on fuzzy socks with cofee and computer relaxing at home.

Take Back Your Life From Cancer 

This free journal was created for my family about halfway through our battle when the stress and the fear were at an all-time high.  We were tired and defeated and losing our edge.  This journal helped us…

You can grab the journal here for free …

Take a Deep Breath 

A simple but effective way to help you relax in less than a minute. No, it won’t solve all your problems, but you’ll feel a big difference.  And it’ll give you a  second “pause” to clear your mind and get your head together.

Focus on the Mission at Hand

This experience is terrifying, and it changes constantly so you can never actually trust that you’re in a stable place.  Whatever is happening right now, it’s probably not as scary as is it is in your head.  

Breathe and try to focus on what you need to do right now.  

What’s the first thing you need to do?  ex.  Leave the dr. office and get in the car. Now do it.  

What comes after that?  Drive home.  Now do that. Next?  

Just keep moving forward through those little baby steps.  Focus on one mission at a time.  

Talk to Someone

Unload some of this stuff you’re carrying around, get some of it off your chest.  It may be exactly what you need to get your head back in the game.  Talk to a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or text a therapist (which by the way you can do while you are running all over the place.) 

 You HAVE to push through this.  Your loved one needs you.  

Laugh

Laughter is an incredible (and natural) stress reliever.  Sometimes my family and I just laughed because we honestly couldn’t believe how crazy everything was and we didn’t know what else to do.  

Find things to laugh about and make it your mission to laugh so hard you cry.

Have a Meltdown

No, seriously.  You don’t have to be strong every minute.  

Crying is an incredible stress reliever. I always feel so much better after I cry the stress and the pain out of my system. Be sad, be mad, be miserable.

Just don’t unpack and live there.  Get it out, then (later, tonight, tomorrow even) get back up, pull yourself together, and move on.  

Prayer 

There are very few things that are certain during this journey. In caregiver life, things are changing constantly and whatever direction you are heading in now could take a sharp left by tomorrow.  

God is the only one who knows what’s actually going to happen here.   

We were told in the beginning that my dad had “days to weeks” to live.  And we battled Lung Cancer for 21 months (and finished two bucket lists).  A lot of meaningful time and some pretty amazing things happened over the course of our journey.  

The Dr’s can give you their best guess based on experiences with other people, but In the end, God was the only one who knew what was actually going to happen.  

Work it out

Walking, running, hiking, boxing, swimming, CrossFit (the list is endless).  Working through some of this stress, fear, and frustration is a great way to shed some of the stress and keep yourself healthy (and get a little extra energy) at the same time.  It’s one of the best ways to combat the stress and it totally works.

Break Things

During our cancer journey, my husband and I spent an entire weekend ripping out all of the bedroom ceilings of our house.  We pulled down tons (and I mean TONS) of plaster and lathe and replaced it with new updated ceilings.

And we did all the work ourselves.  By the end of the ceilings, we were both totally exhausted.  But there is nothing in the world like the feeling of taking on a huge project like that and breaking everything in your path.

It was an absolutely incredible stress reliever. Not only that, I slept like a baby the whole weekend.  🙂

Emotions

Young woman crying on the couch.

This cancer business is heavy stuff.  Like a 100lb rock, you’re carrying around with you.  

You wake up feeling exhausted and anxious about everything.

The feelings are intense.   This pain is real and it’s raw, and it definitely can’t be ignored.  And most of the time you don’t have time to even deal with it.  

You literally have fear and anxiety (not to mention depression) about everything.  

  • Now I have to wait a week for the test results?
  • What if the treatment is not working?
  • How will I deal if this is the end for us? 
  • What if there are no more options?
  • What if there’s nothing more they can do?
  • How will I tell the kids?
  • How will I survive this?  

The feelings just compound.  And it’s hard to push them aside.  

Here’s the truth…

You have survived every single bad day you’ve ever had and you’re going to survive this one too.

Don’t give cancer any more power than it already has.  You’ve had plenty of days in your life where you honestly weren’t sure you were going to make it.  But you did.  And I know this feels different and the stakes are much higher but you can do this.  

Our Best Tips for Dealing With Emotions

woman meeting wth doctor about her health.

Write It Out

I am convinced that the only way I survived this journey and eventually the death of my dad, was this blog.  Here, I can unload EVERYTHING I am feeling and hopefully make things a little easier for you in the process.

You have to get some of this stuff off your chest. 

This kind of stress and anxiety is really intense and dangerous to your health.  Writing it all down may help you find some relief, some perspective, and the motivation to keep going.

You can grab our free journal here to get started…

Talk to someone who can help

The stress and anxiety will eat you alive and you feel like you can’t escape.  You have to unload some of this stuff you’re carrying around. Talk to a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or text a therapist (which by the way you can do while you are running all over the place.)

Get out and do something fun 

Sometimes taking a break from caregiver life is exactly what you need.  Get out of the house, go for a walk, catch a movie, take a drive, head to the beach, go for a swim, grab lunch, spend some time reading…

Whatever you feel like doing, make arrangements for someone to cover you for a short period of time and go do it.  If today is not a possibility, then make it happen tomorrow.

Spend time with people that make you happy

Family, friends, neighbors, kids, nieces, nephews, GRANDCHILDREN…  They are the key to everything.  The reason that my dad kept fighting for as long as he did was so he could be here with the people he loved.  His grandchildren came first and the rest of us came (a close) second.  

The people that make you happy, have a way of making everything feel better just by being around.  And kids not only make you feel better, but they are also a great distraction

Identify what helps you stay in a good place

Figure out what works for you and make sure you always have it available.  Keeping a “bag of tricks” that you can use when caregiver life gets intense can be a great way to stay mentally healthy and take a break when you need one!

 And they can be simple things, as long as they make you feel good!

  • Bubble baths
  • Cuddle with your dog
  • Journaling
  • Herbal Tea
  • Prayers
  • Mommy/daughter dates
  • Read a good book
  • Music
  • Aromatherapy

Figure out what works for you and keep it on hand.

 Get Physical

There are literally hundreds of ways that you can get physical and combat stress at the same time.  Most importantly, it’s about finding something you love to do, that feels good and doing it.

Way to get physical like…

  • Exercise
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Jog 20 blocks
  • Play at the playground with your kids
  • Clean out the garage
  • Do some gardening
  • Participate in a relay for life
  • Go out dancing
  • Take the kids skating or bowling
  • Take a hike

You’ll use your muscles, get some exercise and feel better in the process.

 Talk to a doctor about options (including medication)

Caregiver life and cancer are not typical situations, but it’s probably going to be a long situation.  The stress is the most intense thing I have ever experienced in my life and you need to be game on, all the time.

If you are struggling to get yourself back in the game, it may be time to talk to the doctor about something that can help.  About 8 months into our journey, I felt like if I didn’t talk to the doctor about something to help with the anxiety, the stress alone was going to kill me.

The medicine they gave me helped tremendously with the constant worrying about everything.  Talk honestly with your doctor about what this experience is like for you and what you’re struggling with.  There may be something that can make a big difference.

If you’re struggling to find the time to schedule an appointment but you know you need to talk to a doctor, you can contact Talkspace which offers therapy (and can offer medication as part of your treatment).  

Talkspace helps you get what you need to work through this on your schedule.

You can learn more about Talkspace here…

Terrifying Emergencies

Very stressed woman talking with the dr. caregiver life

Caregiver life is not for the faint of heart.  This is heavy, heavy stuff.  Emergencies are part of the deal.  And we’re talking scary emergencies.

My dad lost his hearing shortly after his cancer diagnosis.  And one night, pretty late he Facetimed me totally panicked to tell me that an ambulance was at the house taking my mom and I needed to come down.  He had no idea why they were there, or what was happening.  

I live on top of a mountain about 35 minutes away, and when I tell you I flew down that mountain, with the most terrifying thoughts running through my head…Let’s just say, I’m just really glad God was watching over all of us that night.

I had no idea what happened.  If she was okay.  And my dad who couldn’t hear me was sending me text messages which was a great way for us to communicate, just not right then.

I safely arrived at the house, picked up my dad and we headed over to the hospital.  My mom was being kept overnight (actually for days after that) because she was in A-Fib and her heart rate was over 230 beats per minute.  

She’s fine now, but she couldn’t tell my dad what was happening because she was seconds away from passing out, so she just called 9-1-1.

I wish we had known it then, but Lively is a smart phone for seniors that’s easy to use (even if you’re not techy) and it has a built in emergency response system for a really reasonable price.  

You can learn more about Lively here… 

There is never a dull moment with this disease and this is just one example of many.  There is always something to deal with, fight with, figure out, worry about, struggle with, and stress about.

That’s what cancer is.  A huge mess of obstacles, challenges, and unknowns.

The Best Way to Tackle Emergencies

Couple meeting medical specialist at hospital

Have a solid emergency plan before you need it. 

After that horrific experience…

  • We placed a HUGE sign behind the front door and by the telephone stating that my father was deaf, and to contact my number for any emergencies.
  • We also identified 2 neighbors who were willing to help if anything like that happened again.  They could talk to the paramedics, communicate with my dad and contact me with all the information.  
  • Finally, we purchased a caption phone, so my dad could talk but also read my response making it much easier for us to communicate with each other. (Hint:  it takes longer to talk this way since each conversation is transcribed and there is a bit of a delay.  But, you are able to connect with emergency services if you need to). You can find the one we used here.

Organize your medical information

Organize your medical information so you have everything you need ready to grab and run out the door.   We have a free printable pack that walks you through the whole process of getting set up in less than an hour.   You can get the Cancer Binder Pack for free here…

Always have a bag packed

Emergencies are a huge part of cancer.  And they don’t come with a whole lot of “prep” time before you have to go running out the door.  Have a bag already packed so you can just grab it and go.  We walk you through exactly what you need in the bag here…

Caregiver Life is Hard

incredibly stressed young women.

It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning when you know that you’ll be spending the whole day at the dr’s, or watching someone you love struggle through the sickness and the side effects of treatment, or knowing that you’ll be handling body fluids, fighting with medical staff and insurance companies, or dealing with your loved one’s anger and frustration…

Caregiver life has some incredibly meaningful moments, but honestly, a lot of days suck.  

There is very little look forward to.  And when you’re not bogged down with a thousand tasks and appointments you have LITERALLY NO energy to plan things to look forward to.

Trust me, you need to do this.  

Life is about those incredible moments where you’re doing something you love, with the people that mean the world to you.  

You can’t let cancer consume your whole life.  It will if you let it.  Don’t let it.

How to Make Life Easier

hand of young woman with pen writing on notebook

Plan things. Together.

Not huge world trips.  Little, meaningful, fun activities and trips that you can share together or use to take a break. Going through months of nothing to look forward to is miserable.  

You’re going to be dealing with a lot of miserable already.   

We have some great ideas to escape for a while here and a TON more ideas to take a break from cancer here

The best way to tackle this…

Stop putting things off

What are some things you’ve been talking about doing “later?”

  • Things you’d like to do.
  • People you’d like to spend time with.
  • Places you’d like to go.
  • Food you’d like to eat.

Create a List

It doesn’t have to be big elaborate events.  They can just be simple things that you love, especially things you can do with your loved one…

We did things like…

  • The aquarium with the grandkids
  • Camping overnight at our favorite campground
  • Dinner at The Culinary Institute of America (which was amazing!).  
  • Broadway Shows (we found cheap tickets on Groupon).
  • Trip to North Carolina and spent some time with family.
  • Road trip to the mountains for the weekend.
  • Dinner at Carmines and Rosie O’Grady’s.
  • We had a picnic by the lake and did some fishing.
  • Checked out the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
  • Visited the 9/11 museum and cried our eyes out.
  • Toured Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Times Square.
  • We attended a reunion with family we hadn’t seen in years.
  • A last-minute cruise to Bermuda.  (no joke, you can find our full review of cruising with cancer here…)

You can read more about our adventures here…

Plan out the details.

Moving around these days might be very different than when things first started.  The changes are not a big deal, but you may need to make a few adjustments.

  • What do you need to make those trips and activities a reality?
  • Do you need to arrange travel?  Drop off or pick up? 
  • Are several people going?  Or just a few?
  • Will you need a walker or a wheelchair for your loved one?  Either of these will give your loved one a chance to relax or take a break when needed? 
  • Is this an overnight or far away trip?  Will you need any special equipment?  A toilet seat riser?  A shower chair? A wheelchair, a walker, or both?
  • Should this be discussed with the doctor?  For example: When we took my dad on a cruise, we talked with the doctor about everything having to do with that vacation so there were no surprises. 
  • Where should you go for an emergency?
  • How will you respond to an issue? Or what would we tell the hospital (in Bermuda!) if we ended up there. 

By planning ahead, we had already considered the bad stuff mapped out, so we could focus our energy on having a blast. 

Bonus:  Don’t forget to ask the doctor about medication.  They were able to make a few med changes for the cruise vacation period and he ended up feeling great for the entire vacation.

Make a quick list of things you need. 

Jot down a quick list of anything you need to remember on that day, including things you need to bring (medication, special equipment, emergency numbers, snacks!)

And there you have it. 

Building a list can change everything about the way you feel because you have things to look forward to and be excited about.

Caregiver life is incredibly difficult. But if you do it right, it can also be an incredible journey full of meaningful time, fun adventures, and a new perspective on everything.  

P.S.  If you have no idea how to deal with a cancer diagnosis, we can help you formulate a plan. So you can SIMPLIFY all of the complex “stuff” that comes with this disease… 

Finding the best care, talking with your insurance company, finding resources that will actually help, and dealing with the fear, anxiety, and overwhelm of this whole situation.

We can’t control the cancer, but we CAN show you how to manage this crisis. And it’s 100% Free.

You can get the Cancer Combat Plan FREE here…

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