HER2+ Early-Stage Breast Cancer

Caregiving

In this role, you will be instrumental in your loved one’s treatment and recovery. During her treatment, she will need your emotional support. Your kindness, commitment and determination will make a difference and give her strength.

Attend medical visits. Go with her to learn about her type of cancer, treatment options and other aspects of care. Her nurse or patient navigator can answer questions, offer resources, relay information to the care team and indicate which appointments will be most beneficial to attend. Ask for copies of test results, surgical procedures, treatments received, etc.

Treat her the same as you did before. Remind her that she is the same person she was before the cancer diagnosis. She may look different on the outside without her breasts or her hair, but let her know that you don’t see her any differently. This is important because she may not feel like herself and may be very self-conscious about her changed appearance.

Be mindful of her feelings. Sometimes she will want to talk about cancer, and sometimes she won’t. Don’t dismiss her feelings by saying such things as “Don’t worry about it” or “It’s going to be fine.” Just listening is often a source of comfort.

Give and track medication. Your loved one must take the right dose of the right medication at the right time for her treatment to be most effective. Create a chart or set reminders or alarms to make it easier to stay on schedule. She will likely be taking oral medications for several years after active treatment, and she may become frustrated with it. You can encourage her by reminding her that the medications help reduce her risk of a recurrence.

Find a support group for your loved one and yourself. Ask her nurse or patient navigator for a referral to a local or online cancer support group, peer-to-peer counseling and a cancer caregivers’ support group. Online groups give you the option of connecting with others without having to leave home.

Help manage side effects. Learn which side effects to watch for, when they will likely occur, and what to do if they do (see Side Effects ). Minimizing and managing them may improve your loved one’s outcome and will improve her quality of life.

Know when to seek professional help. There may be a time when she needs to talk with a mental health professional or therapist. Her health care team can recommend a resource.

Take care of yourself. To be the best source of support for your loved one, you must care for yourself physically and emotionally. Self-care will help you feel re-energized, happier and better prepared for your ongoing caregiving role. Don’t feel guilty about recharging your batteries. It’s necessary to provide the care and support your loved one needs from you. Go to the gym. Get in a run before dinner. Do things in the house that are distracting and not related to her cancer care. Find something to laugh about every day; it is a great way to reduce stress. Make healthy food choices. There is a tendency when feeling stressed and overwhelmed to eat fast food or comfort foods that are high in calories and fat content. That means you may gain weight which may not be something you need to do.

 

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