This National Carers Week, Cancer Council SA recognises the significant impact a cancer diagnosis can have on carers and loved ones. Something that Paula understands all too well… When Paula’s mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, she reached out to Cancer Council 13 11 20 to help her navigate her emotions and care for her mum.
Paula’s mum, Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. She had two surgeries which included a partial mastectomy and a removal of lymph nodes.
At the time, Denise and her husband lived in Bordertown in regional South Australia, where they also ran a small business. Paula became her mum’s carer when she would travel to Adelaide for cancer treatment.
“My parents had their own business and mum was very sick, so my husband and I did a lot of driving to Bordertown on weekends to wash, cook, clean and help my family,” Paula said.
“Mum put on a brave face and wouldn’t show us kids that she was scared, hurting or worried. I struggled with this as I wanted to help and didn’t know how or what to do.
“I first reached out to Cancer Council 13 11 20 as I was a mess but was trying to hold it together for my family and didn’t know what I was doing or how best to support them.
“Having a family or friend diagnosed with cancer can be a very isolating experience. There are so many emotions that are overwhelming during such a stressful time.
“The Cancer Council Nurses at the other end of the phone were brilliant as I needed someone to talk to who wasn’t family and could help me to navigate my own emotions whilst helping my family through such a horrible time.”
Paula is not alone in her experience—for every person diagnosed with cancer, at least three more people are seriously impacted. Cancer Council SA data shows that 1,500 carers called Cancer Council 13 11 20 last year and 63 per cent of those callers were experiencing high levels of emotional distress.
Cancer Council SA Information and Support Manager, Amanda Robertson says a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, and it’s common for carers to experience a range of feelings about their new role and responsibilities.
“Often feelings experienced by carers are similar to those experienced by the person with cancer. Research shows that some carers can report even higher levels of distress,” Amanda said.
“We know that carers can often be so focused on taking care of their loved one, that they can start to ignore their own needs, and this can affect their health and wellbeing, relationships, work and finances.
“Cancer Council 13 11 20 is staffed by experienced cancer nurses who can provide information and support to anyone impacted by a cancer diagnosis, including family and friends.
“Through our Cancer Connect Program, we can also connect callers with others who have been through a similar experience caring for someone with cancer. Talking to someone else who has cared for someone with cancer can help reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety.
Paula shared her advice for people supporting their loved one through a cancer diagnosis.
“Don’t suffer on your own whilst you’re struggling with huge, overwhelming emotions. Please reach out to the Cancer Council and speak to someone—it made a huge difference and helped me through some very dark times,” Paula said.
If you’re caring for someone with cancer, we are here for you.
Our Cancer Nurses can offer emotional support, help answer questions, provide relevant and trustworthy information, and direct carers to a range of other services and supports including counselling and telephone peer support.
Cancer Council’s Nurses are available from Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. For more information on Cancer Council 13 11 20, visit the Cancer Council SA website here.