Coping with everyday life

Everyday responsibilities like family life, home life or work can be hard when you are coping with cancer. Whether you live alone or with other people, try to be realistic about what you can manage early on. Ask a partner, family member or friend for support at home. Sharing your responsibilities may make it easier to concentrate on coping with the cancer and its effects.

It can also help to speak to your employer about the best way to manage your work. Taking time off or reducing your hours may help if you are finding it hard to cope. Support is available for people affected by cancer at work, including carers.

Cancer affects you as an individual, and the people closest to you. It can also put a strain on relationships. But for some couples, overcoming a shared challenge like cancer can bring them closer together. Talking to your family and friends about how you are feeling can help you understand each other better and relieve anxiety. As well as giving you practical help, your family and friends may also be able to give you emotional support.

If you need more support than you can get at home, you may decide to visit a hospice for day therapy. This can also give you the chance to meet people going through similar things to you.

Family life

Looking after a family can be hard work, even when you are well. Juggling family life with work, as well as coping with cancer and the emotions it can cause, may seem impossible. It can also feel difficult to support other people when you feel in need of support yourself.

Be realistic about what you can manage. Try to get help from a partner, your family or your friends before things become too much for you to cope with. Think about which duties you can give up for a short time. This may help you concentrate on coping with the cancer.

If you are a parent, you may not be able to do all the things you usually do for your children. This doesn’t mean you have failed in any way. It just means you need to plan your time and save your energy for the most important tasks.

Your family members may also be finding it difficult to cope with changes to family life. They will also have fears about the future. Try to talk openly about your concerns and how you can support each other.

It may also be helpful to talk to someone outside the family, such as a good friend or trained counsellor. We have more information about talking therapies and getting professional help.

If you have a partner

Being diagnosed with a serious illness can be difficult for you as an individual. If you have a partner, it can also affect them. Coping with cancer can put a strain on relationships. But some couples come to a new understanding and love for each other by overcoming a shared challenge like cancer.

Make time to talk and share your feelings with each other. This can help you understand each other better and feel closer.

If you are finding communication with your partner difficult, seeing a couples counsellor may make it easier to talk. We have details of useful organisations, including organisations that support lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.

We have more information about the impact cancer can have on relationships, and what may help. This includes support if cancer or its treatment has had an impact on your sex life.

Talking to children about cancer

Deciding what to tell your children or grandchildren about your cancer is difficult. An open, honest approach is usually best. Even very young children can sense when something is wrong, and their fears can sometimes be worse than the reality.

Talking to your children may also relieve some of your own anxiety. You may have felt the need to hide where you have been going or physical symptoms, such as hair loss or tiredness. This can create extra stress.

How much you tell your children will depend on their age and how mature they are. It may be best to start by giving only small amounts of information, and gradually telling them more to build up a picture of your illness.

We have more information about talking to children and teenagers when an adult has cancer, including a video about talking to children.

Life has been very difficult these past few years, but we have developed a strong, deeply important relationship through everything that happened.


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 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.

Support from hospices

Hospices can help anyone with cancer and other chronic illnesses, not just people who are seriously ill. They can offer symptom control, physiotherapy, psychological support and a range of complementary therapies, such as massage and reflexology. The care is free and it may help you relax and reduce stress.

Visiting a hospice for day therapy can also give you the chance to meet people going through similar things. It can also give your family or carers some time for themselves. Your GP or hospital doctor can organise a referral for hospice support.

Managing work

Work is an important part of life for some people. It can help to have a discussion with your employer about the best way to manage your work. If you are finding things difficult to cope with, you may need to take time off until you feel better. It can feel very different going back to work. Your priorities can change, and you may want to consider working part-time or returning to work gradually.

We have more information about work and cancer, including information for people who are self-employed.

Relationship map

You might find it useful to make a relationship map. It can help you see more clearly who is important in your life and who can help in different ways. You can record on the map the names of people closest to you in the inner circle. The outer circle is for those who care about you and are present in your life, but might not be relied upon for deep emotional support.

Back to Managing day-to-day life