Partners, carers, family and friends
Growing evidence shows that cancer is being described as a ‘we-disease’. This means the diagnosis, treatment and care of ovarian cancer also significantly affect the partner, family and friends of someone with ovarian cancer. Both the person with ovarian cancer and their intimate partner, carer or family may suffer psychological distress. To get through this together they may each need individual support, as well as support together.
Some of the common difficulties experiences by partners, family and friends of someone with ovarian cancer include:
Increased financial support, stress and responsibilities.
Increased household responsibilities and practical support.
Increased carer responsibilities.
Difficulties juggling work and caring duties.
Less time to focus on yourself and engage in activities that are important and enjoyable to you.
Emotional difficulties including stress, anxiety, low mood and sleep disturbance.
Changes to relationships and intimacy.
Grief, which may include anticipatory grief before a loss has occurred, grief for a life not led (e.g., not being able to complete retirement travel plans) and grief over other unwanted changes to your life and that of your loved one/family member with ovarian cancer.
What are some tips for partners, family members and friends?
It’s really important that partners, family members and friends also prioritise their own needs as much as possible. This can sometimes trigger feelings of guilt or selfishness and lack of time is also cited as a large barrier to self-care. Here are some tips that may be helpful:
Talk to your employer about your circumstances and discuss options for flexible work arrangements where needed.
Discuss any financial concerns with a financial advisor. The cancer council has access to financial advisors who may be able to assist when income has been significantly reduced due to a cancer diagnosis.
Ensure your own health is being well managed. This may include doing regular exercise, eating a well balanced nutritious diet and preparing meals in advance where possible or accessing a food delivery service, seeking medical attention sooner rather than later if you become unwell and minimising use of alcohol and cigarettes to manage stress.
Mini ‘me’ break: Give yourself permission to take intentional time out of your day to step outside thinking about and talking about cancer-related content. Lack of time and feelings of guilt can prevent ‘me-time’ however, your brain needs a break too! Take a break before you reach the point of caregiver burnout. This may mean a small break in the day to take time for yourself or a planned weekend away. Enlist the support of other family members where possible to enable this to happen if needed.
Plan things to look forward to. This may include a dinner with friends, a massage once a fortnight or an outdoor activity with friends.
Mindful use of Dr Google. It can be tempting to go down a ‘Google’ rabbit hole. While it is helpful to be informed, these sites don’t address your specific situation and needs.
Be proactive about your own mental health. If you are experiencing difficulties with sleep, anxiety, stress, or low mood speak to your GP about enlisting the support of a psychologist, counsellor or social worker.
There was an outpouring of love, sometimes from the most unexpected quarters – friends and family really wanted to help. Some people couldn’t cope and backed away for a time, so I focused on those who could show me support and allowed myself to lean on them.
Where to find support and information
There are many tips and strategies which specifically address the needs of family members, partners and friends available in this resource developed by the cancer council Caring for Someone with Cancer
The Cancer Council booklet 'Cancer, Work and You'
The Cancer Council booklet 'Cancer Care and Your Rights'
Carer Gateway - Is an organisation which provides free services and support to carers
Ovarian Cancer Australia's psychosocial support team offer counselling to adult family members affected by ovarian cancer. For more information, visit our Psychosocial Services page.
Ovarian Cancer Australia has also developed a booklet for male partners booklet which provides information on supporting our partner through ovarian cancer.