Being the primary caregiver for someone with thyroid cancer can cause emotional and physical strain. Your loved one’s cancer journey may be one of the most challenging feats you will face in your lifetime. No one person can be the patient’s sole support. Caregivers must care for themselves so that they can properly support the patient. Burnout isn’t inevitable, and there are steps that can be taken to stay healthy and minimize stress:
- Eat right: planning is a key part of the equation. Learn to plan meals and snacks, especially if you have to eat on the go. Opt for whole grains, fresh fruit, and foods low in saturated fats.
- Exercise: it’s easy to let workout routines fall by the wayside when you become a caregiver. However, exercise can be as simple as walking regularly, say for a total of 30 minutes a day. This will improve your overall health and help you sleep better at night.
- Socialize: denying yourself time with your friends can be very detrimental. When you spend time with them, this actually boosts your body’s production of “feel-good” chemicals, which will make it easier for you to be a better caregiver.
- Lose the guilt: you shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving your loved one at home to go out and have fun. It’s important to take care of yourself so that you can be your best self and do the best you can.
Keeping these strategies in mind and incorporating them into your daily caregiving routine will help you better yourself, which will be good for both of you.
The article below can also provide you with tips, resources and caregiver journey stories you may find useful to help your loved one during this difficult time.
Caregiving and Thyroid Cancer: A Two-Part Job
Caring well for someone with thyroid cancer almost always blends practical and emotional skills. The initial reaction upon hearing a loved one has cancer is usually “fear in the heart,” says Greta E. Greer, MSW, LCSW, director of survivor programs for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. “You all will have a lot of questions, and it’s important to have a physician you feel comfortable with to answer them.”
As a caregiver, take your cues from the person with thyroid cancer. “If she can have a sense of humor about the problems, then you can, too,” suggests Greer, whose aunt, a thyroid cancer survivor, jokes about her disease despite her difficulties.
It is important to be encouraging, and not ask about their condition when it is not relevant – it can be helpful to instead take their mind off it.
Caregiving and Thyroid Cancer: Day-to-Day Attention
A caregiver’s tasks will vary depending on the patient and their treatment plan, but a few key areas to focus include:
- Attend to special dietary needs. After surgeries or in preparation for scans, it is not uncommon to have to follow a strict low-iodine diet, and a caregiver can help by being there for the patient and following instructions precisely – even cooking and freezing future meals.
- Help with a rapid recovery from surgery. Following surgery, it’s normal for the person to be tired, weak, and in need of assistance for a short while. That assistance could include bathing and helping the patient dress. As the caregiver, you can also make sure that the patient is taking all the necessary medicines, and that they do not run out.
- Soothe the side effects of treatment. Side effects will vary according to the type of treatment, and whether it is locally or systemically applied. Local treatment might be surgery that takes out the cancer and leaves everything else intact, or it could be radiation aimed directly at the tumor. Systemic means it goes throughout the body for full effect.
- For example, radiation therapy may leave a burning at the site. Nausea and vomiting are also common. It is also important to consider the emotional impact; there can be the aggravation of having to go in for treatment every day.
- Systemic approaches, such as hormone therapy or chemotherapy, will use medications that aim to destroy cancer cells but also attack healthy cells. The side effects will obviously vary from person to person, but can include anything from pain to hair loss to just feeling lousy.
- Make sure to ask your loved one if their sense of taste of smell has disappeared – though it only lasts a little while, you’ll want to find ways to avoid weight loss or dehydration. Continue to encourage eating, and focus on favorite foods that will be the most tempting. Often, people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation may be more interested in “comfort” type foods that are easier on the palate and the stomach, like mashed potatoes or milkshakes.
- These treatments can also make the patient very tired, so encourage naps and help them clear their schedules around the time of treatment.
Taken from: Everyday Health