Tip - asking for help

It’s easy to feel alone, when you need extra help. Many people also feel guilty about asking for help, and unsure of who to ask.

Try not to let these feelings stop you from getting the help and support you need. You may be surprised at the amount of help available. Friends and family are often happy and eager to help. Community-based schemes and services can also offer many different types of support.

Financial support can make the cost of travelling to hospital, or eating a special diet, more affordable. If you need extra support at work, or time off, your employer should be able to help. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to balance living with cancer with everyday tasks. But, practical help at home, with your children, pets or other responsibilities you may have is widely available.

If you’re unsure where to get help, speak to Macmillan’s cancer support specialists. Other local services and charities, such as Citizens Advice Bureau and your social services department, should also be able to help.

Asking for help

Doing things for yourself is very important, but try not to feel guilty if you have to ask other people to help. Often friends and relatives want to help and are pleased to be asked. Many people are available to help you and your family. Different people can offer support in the community.

Your healthcare team and people who are close to you are likely to be some of the most important sources of support. Your healthcare team can help you to cope with any feelings or physical effects. They will also know what support services are available in your local area. District nurses work closely with GPs and can make regular visits to patients and their families at home.

Some areas have a ‘good neighbour scheme’. The schemes can organise help from someone living locally every so often; for example, shopping, providing company, or offering transport. These schemes are usually run by the social services or local community organisations. Some are only available to people living alone. Look for ‘Council for Voluntary Service’ or ‘Volunteer Bureau’ in the phone book or online.

If you live alone

If you live alone

Living alone can add extra stresses. Even though you may value your independence, being ill may make you feel lonely and frightened.

It is all right to ask for help. People who care about you will want to help in any way they can. Some people may find it difficult to talk, but may be happy to help in practical ways. They might be able to help with shopping or with your garden. You could make a list of practical things that would make your life easier. If people offer to help but are not sure what to do, they can choose something from your list.

Other people may be able to talk with you and listen to you. This could help you to share your worries and fears.

Marie Curie (see page #) has a free helper service available in parts of the UK. Someone can visit you to have a chat over a cup of tea, help you get to an appointment, run an errand, or just be there to listen when you need a friendly ear.

Your GP, social worker, or community nurse will also be able to tell you what help and support is available from local health, social care and voluntary organisations (see page #).

Getting practical help

Help with costs

You may have to travel to hospital, which could mean paying for fares, petrol or parking. You may need a special diet. Your heating bills could go up because you’re at home more during the day. Cancer may also mean a loss of income if you can’t work because you’re ill or caring for someone.

Financial problems can feel overwhelming. Talking through your worries with someone who understands can really help. Call the Macmillan Support Line and one of our cancer support specialists will tell you about the benefits and other financial help you may be entitled to.

Advice about work

If you are very worried or distressed, you may have problems concentrating and may feel that work is the least important part of your life at the moment. If you are depressed you may find it difficult to work. In either case, you may decide that you need some time off work.

Most employers will be sympathetic and helpful. It can help to have a discussion with your manager or personnel officer so they know what is going on. If you need advice about your rights as an employee, you can contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Macmillan Support Line. We have information about Work and Cancer and Working While Caring for Someone with Cancer.

Help at home

You can get help in the home to support you and the person you are caring for. This can give you a break and help you feel less tired.

Care attendants/carers come into the home to help in various ways. This may be with either jobs around the house, such as cleaning, washing and cooking, or just to sit with your relative or friend. They can also give some physical care with tasks such as washing and dressing. Some care attendant schemes provide someone to be there at night. Your local social services department or the Carers Trust will be able to tell you about schemes in your area.

Help with childcare

It’s important to try not to feel guilty if you’re struggling to care for your children. It can be difficult to ask for help, but with the right support some of the stress can be eased. The time you then spend with your children is likely to be more enjoyable and relaxed.

It’s important to ask for help when you need it. Social workers can be a useful contact and support in this situation. They can advise you about the childcare that’s available in your local area.

Help with pet care

Many people with cancer live alone but have the companionship of a pet. Looking after a pet can become a problem if you have to go into hospital for treatment, or into a nursing or residential home if you are less able to cope because of the cancer or its treatment. This can be a very distressing time and many pet owners worry about who will look after their pet when they can't.

There are arrangements you can make for your pets while you are in hospital, or if you become unable to care for them.

You are not alone

Whatever your situation, you don’t have to face it alone. Our cancer support specialists can answer any questions you have, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Managing day-to-day life

Coping with family life and work

It’s important to be realistic about what you can manage. Get help if you’re finding it hard to cope with family life and work.

Lifestyle and diet

Eating well and getting active are positive life choices that improve your health and well-being.