Looking after yourself

It can feel difficult to support other people when you feel in need of support yourself. If you are caring for someone, you may be under a lot of stress.

If you have cancer and also look after someone you may have many different feelings. These feelings may come and go. You may each have good days when you feel positive, and bad days when your fears and worries are worse.

You may feel scared and anxious about what is happening. You may feel unsure about how you are going to cope. Cancer can take away your feelings of control. Feeling uncertain about the future can be one of the most difficult things to deal with.

You may feel like you are on your own and that other people do not understand what you are going through.

Tips for when you are looking after someone

  • Make a list of practical things that you need help with

    Ask friends and relatives what they would be able to do. For example, it could be help with shopping, taking your children to and from school or collecting prescriptions. Try not to feel guilty if you have to ask other people for help.

  • Pay attention to your own feelings

    You may think you should ignore your own feelings and focus on looking after the other person. But it is not good for you to ignore your feelings for a long time. Paying attention to your feelings can help you support them better.

  • Try not to let feelings of anger and resentment build up

    Try to understand how the other person feels. This may stop anger and irritation developing into an argument.

  • Talk to them and explain how you feel

    Choose a time when you are both having a good day. Or you may find it easier to talk about your feelings with someone else.

  • Listen to them when they want to talk

    Listening is just as important as talking and can help you both understand what the other person is feeling. You may feel unsure about how to comfort the person you care for. Listening to them when they want to talk can make a real difference.

  • Talk about how you are feeling with someone else

    Sharing your feelings can help you accept the situation and remember what is important to you. You may want to talk to someone you know well, or to someone outside of your situation.

  • Talk to a professional

    You can ask your GP about how to get counselling or see a psychologist. A counsellor or psychologist can help you talk about your feelings.

  • Write about your feelings

    This can help you express how you feel. If you are worried about things, writing them down may help you stop thinking about them. You could keep a diary, blog or use social media. You could also join our Online Community.

Tips for talking and listening

  • Try not to talk when one of you is busy or tired.
  • Choose a time and place when you can talk without being interrupted.
  • Talking about feelings can be tiring. Set a limit on how long you will talk for.
  • Pay attention to what they are saying. Try to listen instead of thinking about what you are going to say next.
  • Try to repeat back what you have heard. This helps you check you have got it right and shows you are listening. You might say things like, ‘So you mean that…?’.

Carer's assessment

If you are a carer, you can ask the social worker (if you have one)for an assessment of your needs. This is called a carer’s assessment. It is an opportunity to talk about any help you need.

Care attendants can help in various ways. This could be with jobs around the house, such as cleaning and washing, or just to sit with your relative or friend to give you a break. They can give some physical care and some care attendant schemes provide someone to be there at night. Your local social services department or Carers Trust will be able to tell you about schemes in your area.

If you think you may no longer be able to care for someone because of the cancer or its treatment, it is important to let people know straight away. This might be your healthcare team, your GP or the person's GP or social worker if they have one.

How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
Macmillan Telephone Buddies
With a weekly call from one of our trained Telephone Buddies, you don't have to face cancer alone.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.