Coping with family life and work

Everyday responsibilities like family life or work can be hard work when you are coping with cancer. Try to be realistic about what you can manage early on. Ask your partner, family or friends 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’re finding it hard to cope. Support is available for people affected by cancer at work, including carers.

Cancer not only affects you as an individual, but those 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.

If you need more support than is available 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.

Getting help from others

Working or looking after a family can be hard work, even when you’re well. It may seem impossible to try to juggle work life and/or family life at the same time as coping with cancer and all the emotions it can cause. It can also feel difficult to support other people when you feel in need of support yourself.

It is important to 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. You may need to give up some or all of your responsibilities for a short time. This may help you concentrate on coping with the cancer and its effects.

If you’re 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 also will have fears about the future. Try to talk openly about concerns and how you can help support each other.

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’re finding things very 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.

You may find our information about work and cancer helpful. If you’re self-employed, you may also like to read our information about self-employment and cancer. We also have information for carers about working while caring for someone with cancer.

You may try to hide what you really feel so that you don’t upset other people. But it can be reassuring to get your concerns out in the open and find that others feel the same. Talking about your worries may be all you need to do to help you manage your family and work life. You may find our information on talking to family and friends about your cancer helpful.

It may also be helpful to talk to someone outside the family, such as a good friend or trained counsellor.

If you have a partner

Being diagnosed with a serious illness can be difficult for you as an individual, but 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 another as a result of overcoming a shared challenge like cancer.

Communication plays a big part in any relationship. Talking about the illness and the impact it’s having can be an important way of helping you both cope with it. You and your partner may have different feelings, and you may feel different things at different times.

You or your partner may not always want, or feel able, to talk. In these situations, you or your partner can get emotional support from your nurse specialist, other members of the hospital team as well as other organisations.

If you have become less interested in sex as a result of cancer or its treatment, help is available.

We have more information about the impact cancer can have on relationships, and what may help.


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 to you. It can also give your family or carers some time for themselves.

Your GP or hospital doctor can organise a referral for hospice support.

Back to Managing day-to-day life

Tip - asking for help

Try not to feel guilty about asking for help. Support is widely available and can make managing day-to-day life easier.

Lifestyle and diet

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