May 22, 2024
Survivorship 101

Survivorship 101:  The Importance of Co-Survivors

Caregiver, care partner, or co-survivor are all terms to describe an individual who supports a person diagnosed with cancer through the experience. At OncoveryCare, we know caring for a person you love with cancer can be a deeply meaningful and complex journey. We also know the experience doesn't end when treatment ends, when routines and roles may shift. Caregiving often continues into post treatment survivorship in a new form. Even though you may feel your primary job is to step up for the person you love, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of self-care amidst it all. Here we highlight the definition of a caregiver, common issues faced, and strategies for sustaining balance and endurance for this role.

Am I Considered a Caregiver/Co-survivor/Care partner?

Different people gravitate towards different labels to describe their role supporting the person they love with cancer. Regardless of the word you choose, in essence, you are a caregiver if you have assumed the role of primary support for an individual undergoing cancer treatment or post treatment survivorship. There is no typical set of activities, but generally caregiver activities include supporting the emotional experience of someone with cancer as well as the day to day logistical - organizing and attending medical visits, coordinating supportive care services, and even more personal tasks like helping the person you love get dressed or with mobility. There is strong evidence to show caregivers improve quality of life and health outcomes for people treated for cancer, and it’s easy to see why!

Common Issues Experienced by Caregivers:

Lack of Visibility:  It’s natural that there would be a ton of emphasis and attention placed on the person with cancer - both during and after treatment. However, the impact of this experience has a ripple effect on those closest to the person, including caregivers. Often the needs and emotions of caregivers are placed second or can feel invisible. Caregivers often report feeling lost, unseen, or guilty for having needs as compared to the patient themselves. At OncoveryCare we have seen this time and time again, and cannot overstate the importance and value of our co-survivor partners. We see you!

Second hand trauma: Watching someone you love get treated for a serious illness can feel scary and exhausting. Research has shown that the experience of caregiving can increase the risk of anxiety and depression in caregivers, as well as PTSD. There is a great deal of uncertainty during treatment and post treatment survivorship, and it’s also challenging to sit with that unknown. Caregivers often report feeling helpless, despite the fact they are doing things to be helpful every day. For this reason and so many others, it is critical to make sure you have adequate mental health support as early as possible in this process.

Social Isolation: Caregivers can often shift their social lives to fulfill their caregiving duties which can create feelings of isolation and detachment from their support networks. They might also feel guilty participating in social situations or taking time for themselves. At OncoveryCare, we know survivorship takes a village, and believe firmly in strong peer support networks for survivors and their co-survivors alike. 

Financial Toxicity: The financial burden associated with caregiving, including costs related to medical treatment, transportation, and potential loss of income due to reduced work hours is often a huge stressor for co-survivors. If this is a live issue for you, visit our community partner organization, CancerCares for their database on financial resources. 

Strategies for Self-Care as a Caregiver:

  1. Make yourself a priority: You can't pour from an empty cup, so make sure to invest in your own health. This includes incorporating movement and exercise that makes you feel good into your routine,  healthy foods, and adequate sleep. 
  2. Reach Out: Don't be afraid to lean on your people for support. Whether it's venting to your therapist or joining a support group, having people who get it can make all the difference.
  3. Set Boundaries: You're not a superhero—well, maybe you are, but even superheroes need breaks. Don't be afraid to set boundaries and ask for help when you need it.
  4. Take Me-Time: Schedule regular breaks to recharge and do things you enjoy. Whether it's binging your fave TV show or going for a hike, make time for yourself.

In a nutshell, being a caregiver is a meaningful but complex experience. With the right self-care strategies you can better care for yourself and the person you love for the long haul. At OncoveryCare we see you, and you've got this! 🚀

View All Blog Posts
Join our waitlist

Sign up with your email address to receive access to OncoveryCare when it goes live in your state!

Thank you! You've been added to our list!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
VivorCare survivors chatting