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Someone I know has blood cancer

If you're supporting someone with blood cancer, we're here to help you look after yourself too.

What you need to know

Being close to someone with blood cancer can have a big impact on you – You might feel frightened, stressed or worried, even after their treatment has finished or when they are in remission. Put that together with very reasonable fears about the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s completely understandable why you might feel anxious.

But you’re not alone – There are ways you can get support on a practical and emotional level. Remember, our Support Services Team is here for you too.

It’s important you take care of yourself – There are lots of things that can give you a boost and help you be there for your loved one.

Jude with her husband Nigel

Jude's story

Spending precious time with my husband

Jude's story

Ways to look after yourself

When someone is ill, it can feel wrong to put your needs first, or find the time to take a break. But it’s important to find ways to take care of yourself so your own health or wellbeing doesn’t suffer.

Coping with difficult feelings

If you’re supporting someone with blood cancer, you’ll no doubt feel a range of different emotions at different times. Family members and carers who’ve called our Support Services Team have described feelings such as fear, anxiety, frustration, confusion, guilt and anger. These are all reasonable ways to feel about something that has such a massive impact on your life, but they can be difficult to cope with.

And if blood cancer wasn’t enough, you’re also living through a global pandemic and the added risks that brings. Not to mention the restrictions on how we’re living, which can create even more tension in the household.

It’s important to acknowledge your feelings. But at the same time, it’s essential to find ways to manage them, so they don’t take over. We’re all individuals, so it’s a question of finding what works for you.

Here’s a range of things to try:

  • Find a support network for yourself – whether it’s on social media, an online forum, close friends or work colleagues. You need someone to talk to as well.
  • Don’t forget you need me-time – to avoid burning out, could you go for a walk by yourself, call a friend, or just soak in the bath for half an hour?
  • Counselling can be a good way to talk through your feelings without worrying about burdening anyone else. You might be able to access counselling via the hospital, your GP, a Macmillan Local Support Group or Maggie’s Centre.
  • Find ways to relax – whether it’s yoga, breathing exercises or mediation. There are lots of apps you can download for free that help with stress or worry.
  • Mindfulness meditation could help – it can reduce stress, help you relax and get a better night’s sleep. Anyone can try mindfulness – you don’t need any special skills. Watch our mindfulness videos to learn some basic techniques, which you can continue to use and practice.

The mental health charity MIND has information about managing feelings about lockdown easing. You may also find it useful to read the Mental Health Foundation's information about looking after your mental health as we come out of lockdown.

Practical support

Can anyone else help?

You don’t need to do everything on your own. Have a think about tasks you could delegate and make sure you’re getting all the help you’re entitled to from social services.

If the person with blood cancer is shielding (staying at home) because of medical advice, or as a personal choice, practical support is still available from voluntary organisations and local government. National governments may start offering support again if you live in an area where there’s a local lockdown and shielding is recommended for clinically extremely vulnerable people.

Are you a carer?

If you’re looking after someone with blood cancer, you might be a carer, even if you don’t see yourself as one. You could be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and support from social services, and you have rights at work. Find out more from Citizens Advice.

Problem solving

Providing care can feel overwhelming. Try writing down a list of everything on your mind – think about what you can control and what you can’t. Look at each problem you can control.

Step one: Break problems down and pick one thing to tackle first.

Example: We've always enjoyed exercising together, but fatigue means my partner can’t do as much as me.

Step two: Write down as many ideas as you can to solve the problem.

Example:

  1. We start with lighter exercise together, and then I continue on my own.
  2. We exercise separately.
  3. Our exercise sessions are shorter but we exercise more often.
  4. We exercise in the morning when my partner has most energy.

Step three: Pick one solution to try, talk to the other person, and plan a time to try it.

Example: This week we'll exercise more often but in shorter sessions.

Sylvia, whose husband, Tony, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

Sylvia's story

Looking after myself, as well as my husband

Sylvia's story

Communication

When you’re dealing with blood cancer, it’s important to keep communicating, but this can be easier said than done. If you want to open up a conversation with your loved one, you could try:

  1. Making some time and space for a chat.
  2. Asking what they need and how you can best support them.
  3. If talking feels too hard, how else can you show you’re there for them? Some people have written an email, letter, sent a text or made a playlist of songs.

When I’m at home I try and think about nice things and literally just sit and zone out for a while. I find it’s a good way to escape from stressing out.

- Dan, whose mum Kate is on watch and wait for non-Hodgkin lymphoma

More tools and support

If you are caring for someone with blood cancer, try Carer’s UK for expert information and advice about your entitlements and rights.

Some carer services offer counselling. Check with your local carer service to see what is available near you. 

Dawn, support line worker

Worried about anything or have questions?

Contact our Support Services Team

Support for you

Janssen-Cilag Ltd has supported Blood Cancer UK with funding for the production of this web page and others within the 'Living well' section of this website. It had no influence over the content.