Caregivers, Family & Friends

If you're helping your family member or friend through cancer treatment, you are a caregiver. Same if you are a home aid or nurse. Whether it’s full time or part time, you’re a caregiver. Thank you!

Where do I begin?

Your first instinct might be to say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” or “How can I help?” Unfortunately, this often elicits a response of ‘I’m good’ or “nothing for now.” A better way may be to be clever and offer something specific, like ‘can I do your food shopping’ or ‘can I pick up your kids from their play date?’ Perhaps you can babysit the grandchild while your friend goes to the doctor. Or just cook dinner without being asked. Maybe just taking your friend for a walk outside. You won’t find out if you don’t ask.

Another good way to offer support is to listen. Listen to what is being said about how they feel physically. Are they in pain? Are they suffering from gastrointestinal issues? However, just as important, if not more so, is to ask ‘how are you feeling mentally? Are you anxious or nervous or scared? Do you want to talk about it?’. This information could be useful to the healthcare team.


Get well informed

Every day, truthful and trustworthy information is hard to identify. We want to change that.

Boost your loved-one’s mood with activities everyone can enjoy


Practising sports

Doing Yoga

Doing Pilates



Going to a park

Playing cards

Going to a Concert

Find support and improve your loved one’s wellbeing

Building a support system

Get in touch with online and local support groups to find emotional support.


Care for mind and body with recommended compatible activities.

Ask the right questions

A guide to help you communicate effectively with the medical team.

This is an illustrative list of questions one may ask a healthcare professional. It is not exhaustive, nor does it constitute medical advice. You should ask the questions that are appropriate for your situation.

Don't forget to take care of yourself

Becoming a caregiver

Helping with daily activities such as going to the doctor or making meals. It could also mean coordinating services and care. Or it may be giving emotional and spiritual support.

Being a caregiver requires patience: patience with your relative or friend who at times is not well, or has mood changes. Patience with other family members who don’t help out. Patience with the healthcare system. Patience with the disruption in your own life.

Offering support to the caregiver

Family, friends and caregivers may also need support as they will absorb their loved one’s worries and anxiety. This is a new journey for them too.

There are many helpful resources (see below) for caregivers including ESMO’s Patient Guide on Survivorship or The American Cancer Society Caregiver Guide which has a caregiver support video series as well as an Interactive Caregiver Resource Guide…..We don’t want you getting sick as well, as caregivers need to be able to help in taking care of their charge.

Taking time to recharge your mind, body, and spirit can help you be a better caregiver. Caring for your own needs, hopes, and desires can give you the strength you need to carry on. Talk to others about what you’re going through. Studies show that talking with other people about what you’re dealing with is very important to most caregivers, and helps them to offer more, for longer. Just like the patient, you are not alone.

There are so many ways a caregiver, family member or friend can offer support. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.


A word about pain for Caregivers

Unfortunately, pain is a common symptom in cancer patients. Pain is also frequently an impediment to being able to do the things one wants, to have quality of life. Often, people in pain do not mention that they are in pain, especially if it’s not debilitating. Often, they believe that they can ‘tough it out’ and try to ‘not be a baby’. “I’m a fighter”, they say.

The issue is that often a small pain becomes a medium pain and then an excruciating pain. Instead of treating the excruciating pain, it may be better for various reasons to treat the little pain before it escalates. It may be a good idea to ask a few times a day “on a scale of 1 to 10, what is your pain level right now, with 1 being no pain and 10 being seeing stars?” Log this in a journal and see how it changes, and share with the healthcare team. However, if the pain level is over 5, it may be worth a phone call to the physician’s office.​

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