Taking Care of Yourself

Effects of caregiving on the caregiver
Taking care of a spouse with cancer is like running a grueling marathon with few, if any, breaks. Although few people think about the effects on you, the caregiver, you go through quite a lot yourself even though you aren't the one with cancer. Below, we detail some common effects of caregiving when your spouse has cancer.

Sleep disruptions
You may find that you don't sleep well, even when your spouse is sleeping in relative comfort beside you. Many of us have found that this is due to a constant heightened state of alert and worry when your spouse is ill - you are afraid to let yourself sleep deeply in case he/she needs you. When you don't sleep well, you naturally are tired during the day - and you may also be irritable, have trouble concentrating at work or on conversations, etc.

Always on alert
As mentioned above, you are constantly on alert when you are caring for your spouse, day and night, week after week. Being constantly on alert is a huge strain on both the body and the mind. Even when you have a moment to relax a bit, you may find that you have trouble letting go of what you feel you need to be doing for your spouse. You may find that you are less patient and irritable. Try to have patience with yourself, remember to take deep breaths, and whenever possible, find little ways to relax a bit.

Lowered immunity
Always being on alert and sleep deprived can take a toll on your own immune system. Wash your hands frequently, and use lots of hand sanitizer. Exercise can also help to naturally boost your immunity. If you feel yourself getting ill, do what you can to get better quickly - not only for your spouse's sake but also for your own. If you have health concerns that you need to control, speak with your doctor.

Caregiving perfectionism
It is extremely common among young cancer spouses to feel the need to do every part of caregiving perfectly. Many of us believe that if we do everything perfectly, we can somehow guarantee that our spouse will come through cancer treatment with flying colors. We also don't want to ever feel that we didn't do something that could have made a difference in our spouse's physical or emotional well-being. When you feel the temptation to be a perfectionist, remember that you are a human being like everyone else, and you will not be able to do everything perfectly. Try to go easy on yourself. If you do the best you can, everyone will see how well you are caring for your spouse, even when you can't see it yourself.