Support comes in many forms, especially when someone is going through cancer. We think about how awful everything that they must endure is – treatments, doctor appointments, fatigue, stress and so much more. Hopefully, the person going through cancer has a good support system and a caregiver that will be by their side through thick and thin.

But what about that caregiver? Do we ever stop to ask ourselves who takes care of them? How do they keep a positive outlook when their loved one is going through so much? Do they have the chance to fill their cup up amid laundry, cooking, cleaning, updating e-mails, dealing with insurance claims and making sure their loved one is comfortable and safe? Caregiving is a lonely, thankless and stressful job, yet most caregivers will never complain to anyone because it is where they choose to be.

So how do we help the caregiver? How do we help them stay strong when they most likely are putting on the mask of strength?

Here are 5 ways you can care for the caregiver:

Ask for forgiveness, then permission. Caregivers are usually taking care of their loved one and that is their only focus. Don’t ask them how you can help because that one question may overwhelm them even more than you know. Just do something for them that would take something off their plate. Like make a meal, go grocery shopping, do their laundry. You can ask for forgiveness later if you didn’t fold the towels the right side out.

Tell them they have the day off. Stay with the loved one going through cancer. Assure the caregiver that you will be right by their loved one’s side, keeping them safe. Tell them that they get the day off to do whatever they want. Having the day off might mean getting a haircut, a massage or a therapy session. That day off might be the one day they feel somewhat normal for a few hours.

Take the kids to a movie, to the park or out to dinner. Cancer affects the entire family, and the caregiver not only is taking care of the person who is sick but the whole family. A family with young children going through cancer just wants to keep things normal. Offer to give their children a day of fun, getting away from worry. This will take the pressure off the caregiver.

Hallmark does have the card for every occasion. A simple card says it all, so does a text, a sticky note, an email, and a call with an “I am thinking of you” message. Sometimes we think we must make such a large impact that we tend to forget that a simple acknowledgment that you know what they are going through is just what they need to hear. They matter. They have stress. They have feelings. They have hard days. They need to be seen, too!

Be the friend to cross the finish line together! Cancer is a marathon, not a sprint and the longer someone has to fight, the more you have to run. Many friends drop out of the race. Don’t be that friend. Be in the race to the finish line. Try to put yourself in their shoes for even one day and imagine if this were your race. Wouldn’t you want a good friend by your side? Be that friend; you will thank yourself later when the marathon is over no matter the outcome of the race.

Shay Moraga, E-RYT500 is a Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor who teaches Yoga for Cancer Caretakers and Survivors at Eisenhower’s Lucy Curci Center. Contact Shay at [email protected] or reach out on social media @NamastewithShay.

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