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Supporting someone with blood cancer: your feelings

When someone you're close to 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 too.

What you need to know

  1. 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.
  2. 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 as well as the person you’re looking after: 0808 2080 888 (Monday to Friday 10am–7pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am–1pm). Outside these hours, leave a message and we’ll call you back. Or you can email [email protected].
  3. 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.

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 as the person you’re supporting.
  • Don’t forget you need time to yourself – 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 – and it means you don’t have to worry about burdening anyone else. See Ways to access emotional and psychological support below.
  • 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 coping when you're supporting someone else. MIND also has general information on coping through the pandemic.

Ways to access emotional and psychological support

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 talking, although it isn’t always easy. 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. Finding another way of showing you’re there for them. Some people have written an email, letter, sent a text or made a playlist of songs.

If you know someone very well it can feel like you know what each other is thinking and feeling, so it’s not necessary to express it. But a life-changing event like a cancer diagnosis can change things, and you may be surprised by your own reaction as well as others’. Pick your moment to start a conversation and take care to listen as well as talk.

Jude with her husband Nigel

Jude's story

Spending precious time with my husband

Jude's story

Problem solving

Providing care or emotional support can feel overwhelming at times. 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.

Breaking things down

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.