Providing the best care for your loved one with pancreatic cancer starts with caring for yourself, and who better to provide some helpful tips than people who have been in your shoes? The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) asked several caregivers, all volunteers of the Survivor and Caregiver Network, for advice on navigating the pancreatic cancer journey, while caring for a loved one.
- “I wish I had known how much delegating I would need to do. Caregiving is a team effort. Many people came to me with the question, ‘What can I do to help?’ I quickly realized I needed to figure out what we needed and who the best person was to provide it. For example, giving clinical trial information to a medical friend to interpret or giving a new recipe to a friend who was a great cook were things that not only helped us, but also put friends and family in their strength and comfort zones.” – Zach W.
- “I consider the fight against pancreatic cancer as if I’m fighting a war. It is a war not of our choosing, but we are at war all the same. Try to put the emotions aside and focus each day on what ground must be gained in the war at that moment. What appointments must be made? What doctors must be seen? What items must be procured to get through each day? If you focus on the prognosis, you can become paralyzed with fear and panic. What can we do today to move forward? Have your good cry, and then pick yourself up, strap on your combat boots, and deal with this like a soldier. Focus on the objective for today, even if it’s just to make the patient feel more comfortable.” – Lynn T.
- “There will be lots of new aches, pains and ailments. In the beginning, I would panic over him getting a cold or a stomach ache. You can’t worry about every little change. Don’t let this disease own you. You still need to live life.” – Amy C.
- “I found meditation apps to be helpful at night. My mind could calm down for a few minutes.” – Sue A.
- “Be totally aware of the patient’s bodily system – keep on top of what’s going in and what’s passing through. Keeping everything working is the biggest key in regenerating the body and maintaining weight. Patients and caregivers have so much going on that sometimes they lose sight of the most basic functions. If you don’t stay on top of this, things can get out of control really fast.” – Kit G.
- “It is helpful to give cancer a vacation on the weekends or on a day of the week. My dad and I would pretend weekends were cancer-free. We didn’t talk about it anymore than necessary. We tried to think of special things to focus on during those days when there were no appointments or treatments to go to.” – Chris S.
- “I lived with my youngest brother for almost five years when he was ill. I had a running list of things I needed done. My visiting brothers would visit and check items off the list. For example: change lightbulbs, fix Wi-Fi, get my brother an oil change, get me a new tire. They were so terrific.” – Lisa B.
- “Leave no stone unturned. The hard truth is that this type of cancer is unforgiving, and you should check out every bona fide treatment possibility and clinical trial that might help.” – Sarah S.
- “Ask people to tell you stories about your loved one. As a caregiver, the most thoughtful or helpful thing someone did for me was to tell me stories about my mom and dad. It was nice to see that other people thought they were as wonderful as I did.” – Elizabeth C.
If you’re a caregiver or a patient, contact the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s PanCAN Patient Services for personalized resources including specialists in your area, information on clinical trials and tips on how to deal with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.