Taking Care of Yourself

Key Points

  • When you take care of yourself, you can be a better caregiver.
  • It is normal to feel different types of emotions like anger, resentment and sadness.

Take action

Don’t forget about your needs. Eat right, exercise, manage your stress and ask for help.

It is easy to get absorbed in your caregiver role and let your needs go unaddressed. Taking care of yourself may seem simple. But when most of your energy is focused on someone else, it is easy to forget simple ways to revive your mind and spirit.

Talking about Lung Cancer

  • Discuss your role
    Your loved one may want to tell people about his or her cancer, or may ask you to share that information. Make sure you know your loved one’s wishes so you can offer support if necessary. Do not share information meant to be kept private.
  • Accept different reactions
    Some people may have intense emotional reactions to the news and others may not. Each time you tell someone, you might get a different and even unexpected reaction. Share the news at a time and place that is comfortable for you and your loved one. Family and friends will need time to process the information before they may be ready to offer support.

Coping with Your Emotions

  • Accept all emotions
    It is normal to feel a wide range of emotions. At times you might resent your role or feel frustrated. Though you may feel guilty or selfish for having these feelings, it’s important to realize they are normal. Keeping a journal can help you express feelings and work through difficult emotions.
  • Stay positive
    This is easier said than done but a positive attitude can improve you and your loved one’s mood. Stay positive by taking one day at a time, setting short-term achievable goals, accepting your limitations, sharing the responsibility and keeping your sense of humor by doing activities you enjoy.

Staying Healthy

  • Get enough sleep
    Aim for 8 hours a day
  • Eat right
    Eat a balanced diet, don’t skip meals and accept meals from your support system if you are too tired to cook.
  • Exercise
    Try to do some form of activity every day. Going on walks is a great way to clear your mind and lower your stress levels.
  • See your doctor and dentist for regular checkups
    It is easy to forget about going to the doctor for routine exams and screenings when you are busy taking your loved one to doctor’s appointments. Practicing preventative medicine will help you stay well so you can be a better caregiver.  It will also prevent you from exposing your loved one to sickness.

Making Time for You

Give yourself time to enjoy your life

Here are some suggestions of ways to take breaks from caregiving that will recharge you:

  • Read a book or watch a movie
  • Take a nap or relax in a bath
  • Get a massage
  • Listen to music
  • See friends
  • Play cards or games with friends
  • Pursue a hobby
  • Create a space in your home where you can retreat when needed

Lean on Your Support System

  • Accept help
    Help your support system help you. Make a list of things other people can help with like running errands, cleaning, giving rides or preparing meals. My Fighting for Air Community can help organize your volunteers.
  • See family and friends
    You might not feel like being social, but the company of family and friends can lift your spirits and help you through the day. You may not be able to see some in person. Keep in touch through phone calls, emails, video chats or letters.
  • Join a support group
    You can find special support groups just for caregivers. Ask your loved one’s doctors if they know of any local groups. Also check out the American Lung Association’s Better Breathers Clubs with locations around the country and our online forum, The Lung Connection. 
  • Connect with religion and faith
    Religion and faith-based organizations can be a source of strength and support for some people. Prayer and meditation may help you cope with your emotions during this time. Reach out to a leader in your faith community to discuss your spiritual needs.

Learn All You Can

  • Knowledge builds confidence
    Often people feel like they don’t have control when they are dealing with cancer. Learning as much as you can will help you feel more in control of the situation and feel less stressed. You will also feel more confident when talking to your care team and making treatment decisions.
  • Ask questions
    Every question you have is worth asking. Sometimes medical providers don’t bring up topics because they aren’t sure you want to hear about them. Don’t wait for the doctor to start all of the conversations. Ask all of your questions and make sure they get answered in a way you understand.
  • Call the Lung Helpline
    Call the American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA or 1-800-586-4872 to speak to someone directly, or submit a question online. Talking with an expert can help ease some of your fears and provide you with the support you need.

Intimacy during Treatment

If you are the partner of someone fighting lung cancer, you may have questions and concerns about sexual activity. Here are some common challenges and suggestions for keeping intimacy during this time:

  • Plan time for intimacy when your partner is rested.
  • Experiment with other activities that are intimate but require less movement and exertion like caressing, hugging, massage and manual stimulation.
  • Experiment with positions that require less energy.
  • The partner not receiving treatment should make the majority of the movements.
  • Some precautions should be taken when engaging in sexual activity while you are in treatment:
  • Avoid sexual intercourse and oral-genital stimulation when your partner’s blood counts are low because they are at an increased risk for infection. Discuss this with their doctor.
  • If there is a chance of pregnancy, birth control should be used as some treatment options can lead to birth defects in the unborn child.
  • Some treatment can cause sterility. Discuss this with your doctor if you wish to have children in the future.

Remember: Communication with your partner can ease many of your concerns about intimacy during this time.