For some people, taking care of a partner, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, or friend who has a gynecologic cancer might seem natural because you love that person. But your role as a caregiver might be more intense than you had expected. You may have to coordinate care, talk to doctors and insurance companies, help with daily tasks, and provide physical and emotional support in ways that could be very challenging to you. With information and advice, however, you can succeed, cope, and be an invaluable source of support and comfort.
Start by familiarizing yourself with the disease by using some of the resources included in the “Resources for Caregivers” on this website for caregivers. These resources will help you better understand the disease that the woman is facing and the road ahead for her and everyone involved in helping her through this difficult time. As you learn more about the road ahead, make sure you take into account your own mental and physical well-being throughout this journey. Remember that you will be a more effective caregiver and advocate if you are healthy.
You may experience shock and disbelief at this time, but you will both adjust. In fact, many gynecologic cancer patients and their caregivers, particularly partners, report positive changes in their relationships and their appreciation for life.
When you are caring for a woman being treated for a gynecologic cancer, you will likely have two new jobs—that of caregiver and advocate. Before you take on these roles or any others, ask your loved one how you can be most helpful to her. Most patients find it reassuring to maintain their regular schedules as much as possible and many prefer to handle certain tasks themselves. As one survivor of ovarian cancer remarked, “I am the same person I was before I got cancer.”
Content in the Caregivers & Families section adapted from Woman to Woman materials written by freelance writer, Beth Howard.