Being a cancer parent comes with a multitude of worries and challenges that make taking care of your family and yourself incredibly difficult – throw in a global pandemic and you have parents living with extraordinary levels of stress.
During tough times, there is an opportunity to lean on the self-care tools and techniques individuals have acquired in their toolbox over time. Children’s Cancer Research Fund teamed up with Momcology to ask cancer caregivers what self-care looks like to them and what self-care tools are helping them most right now.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care can oftentimes feel like another action item on an ever growing to-do list. While self-care is essential to caregivers, it doesn’t need to be an added stressor. It can be as simple as taking a moment to do whatever brings you a sense of calm or joy, no matter how small – while remembering to give yourself grace if you haven’t found what works best for you yet.
“I feel like the words ‘self-care’ put so much pressure on us. I get it—we can’t pour into others if we are empty. But I think it’s so important for people to know that self-care doesn’t have to mean manicure, pedicure, date night or a monthly or weekly night out with friends. It can be sitting in your bathroom on the sink with the door locked for 20 minutes until someone knocks on the door needing you. It could be having your morning coffee before the chaos of life happens. It could be stopping for a donut because -you’re feeling down. I just feel like there is so much pressure for us to self-care in big ways and we feel like we are failing if we aren’t doing it.” – Sue
“One thing I have done every day is just making my bed. That helps me feel organized and tell me that my day has started. I also write down three things I want to do each day. I try to have them in different areas (heart/spirit, mind, body). Everything beyond that is a bonus level and I commend myself. I have a history of depression so keeping that at bay has been priority. TONS of grace, no shame.” - Mindy
“I started running again. Beyond feeling physically better, it gives me the uninterrupted time to work through what might be causing me stress emotionally. I spend that time breaking it down and finding solutions to help with what may be causing me anxiety or discomfort.” - Kim
The Comfort of Routine
In uncertain times, routines can provide comfort. For many cancer moms, self-care can be even a tiny part of their pre-cancer (or pre-quarantine) routine or ritual that has stayed the same.
“I've maintained my morning routine - up early to exercise and then my day ahead seems that much easier! However, when Izzy was in treatment to get out of my funk I would try to do my hair and makeup to feel some sort of normalcy while living in the hospital.” – Amanda
“For us it's been going outside every day for a fresh air break. We are fortunate to live in the country, so we take daily walks down our road, play with our pets or just sit and listen to the frogs. It's a good mental health break for everyone in my family during this pandemic.” – Molly
“Music therapy,” as my son and I call it, has become something that we really enjoy. We do school work in the morning and make time in afternoon to get outside to our shady spot and have our ‘music therapy.’ We listen to all kinds of fun music and choose new songs together which we add to our playlists. We both love music and it always seems to calm us even after a sometimes stressful morning of schooling or appointments.” - Andrea
Self-Care With Teens
Having children at different ages with different experiences, schedules and personal stressors can be difficult to balance. It’s important to recognize that the tools that work for some, might not work as well for others. This can be particularly challenging with teenagers who are tired of being cooped up at home, are feeling isolated from their friends and worrying about missing out on the world around them.
“I feel like my 13-year-old has been in his room for the last several weeks. I was initially nagging him to join us and do homework at the table. The fight wasn’t worth the stress for both of us. I have let him do his own thing and he has made time for the rest of us on his own. I don’t know if letting him do his thing is the right answer, but it’s what’s happening right now.” – Sue
“I am working on just letting things go with my daughter. She is my child that does not have cancer and likes to keep to herself. She is also 14. I guess I put extra stress on myself worrying that she doesn’t feel like she gets enough attention even though that truly is the last thing she desires. Anyways, I have learned to let her be. Not sure this is the right thing but in this time of quarantine, I am giving myself a break and allowing it. Not nagging her has relieved a good bit of stress. – Andrea
“I can relate with our 15-year-old daughter. I have been hands-off but checking in here and there. I also surprise her sometimes with her favorite snack and beverage delivered to her room. Sometimes I'm afraid I will pull back a bloody stump but she's worth the risk!” – Mindy
Good Enough is Good Enough
Self-care isn’t just about what you’re doing, but also about what you’re not doing. It’s unreasonable to expect an ability to meet the same standards in a crisis as you did when your families were healthy – giving yourself grace and allowing some things to fall away is self-care, even if it can be hard to accept.
“I’m allowing myself to be more patient with myself and being a little easier on myself. Also just getting out to ride my bike or go for a walk even when I don’t think I want to, because when I get going I stop complaining and know it makes me feel better.” - Nadine
“Intentional breathing has been huge for me. That and recognizing sometimes just good enough, is good enough! I’m following my own advice and giving myself the same grace I would offer anyone else.” – Cat
Caregivers, and particularly moms, can often find it difficult to prioritize themselves. Taking care of you can feel like a heavy lift while caring for a child and family through cancer. That lift can feel lighter when you share with others who understand, lean into your support community, learn new tools, and reach out for support when you need it the most. Self-care is not selfish, but a vital part of caring for you and your family.
Momcology, in partnership with Children’s Cancer Research Fund, is working to create meaningful content that raises awareness about what families face while going through childhood cancer. By combining CCRF’s authentic storytelling capabilities with the many voices and experiences from within the Momcology network, we are eager to provide a new platform to amplify caregivers’ voices to the public to both accelerate research and raise awareness. Visit Momcology to learn more and join their community.
Your story of childhood cancer is powerful – it can raise awareness for what is needed in the world of childhood cancer research and even encouraging fundraising for vital research projects. See how your story can make an impact by filling out our Share Your Story form.