The Thriving Caregiver

| February 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Tam­bre Leighn MA, CPC, ELI-MP, Paula Hol­land De Long ACC, CPCC, and Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld ACC, CPC, ELI-MP

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.  — Theodore Roosevelt

Spouse, sig­nif­i­cant other, child, rel­a­tive or friend, when some­one you love hears the words, “you have breast can­cer,” you are unex­pect­edly thrust into a role you didn’t ask for, requir­ing knowl­edge, skills, and resources you never expected to need.  You are vital in the over­all well­be­ing and qual­ity of life of your loved one. Your value as the care­giver is indis­pens­able and is a key nat­ural resource in this chal­leng­ing time.

Though it may feel like it, you’re not alone. Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety, three out of four fam­i­lies have at least one mem­ber who is a can­cer sur­vivor.   They also esti­mate that each sur­vivor is sup­ported by up to four inner cir­cle care­givers.
Because of the ever-increasing num­bers of sur­vivors liv­ing longer, more peo­ple are car­ing for a loved one for extended peri­ods of time. Not only does your loved one need sup­port, you need sup­port as well.

As a care­giver you face huge chal­lenges, how­ever there are many rewards. This includes gain­ing new inner strength, deep­ened feel­ings of love and con­nec­tion, more appre­ci­a­tion for what you have, learn­ing to ask for help; and a greater sense of pur­pose.
Iron­i­cally it is the many chal­lenges that come with this role mixed with your nat­ural desire to do what­ever it takes that often leads to the well doc­u­mented exten­sive impact on you and your fam­ily, includ­ing the num­ber one hur­dle… STRESS!  More specif­i­cally, HIDDEN STRESSORS. Left unchecked they keep you from pro­vid­ing the sup­port and care your loved needs and reek havoc with your over all well being.

Cre­at­ing aware­ness and expos­ing hid­den stres­sors can help you main­tain, strengthen and value your­self. In return it brings you much needed strength, health, con­fi­dence and help­ing you to be a bet­ter caregiver.

What are the hid­den stres­sors, and why do they mat­ter?

Car­ing for your loved one is stress­ful. That’s nor­mal. Obvi­ous fears like los­ing your loved one, con­cerns about your abil­ity to man­age what’s hap­pen­ing, and all the new prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions can eas­ily cause sleep prob­lems, lack of exer­cise and the dreaded burnout affect. These obvi­ous stresses leave you feel­ing like you have no one and nowhere to turn to for sup­port, and no choice but to do what needs to be done.

You do have choices.

It’s the per­ceived lack of sup­port, hid­den under the obvi­ous con­cerns, that is the num­ber one con­trib­u­tor to care­giver stress.  This per­cep­tion is actu­ally self-generated. Your strong desire to care for your loved one can eas­ily iso­late you, cre­at­ing the feel­ing of being alone, unap­pre­ci­ated, or over­whelmed. This hid­den belief is part of the stress equa­tion and feeds the feel­ing that you and only you are the team. This does not serve you or your loved one.

It’s time to chal­lenge this belief by choos­ing to change your view­point. There is REAL sup­port all around you. There are peo­ple and resources to help. Just rec­og­niz­ing help is avail­able low­ers stress2.  Reach­ing out for sup­port is a choice that pro­vides the added ben­e­fit of build­ing your con­fi­dence, cre­at­ing more patience and giv­ing you more stay­ing power to sup­port your loved one.

Not know­ing what to expect and what to do is another hid­den stres­sor for care­givers. There are so many obvi­ous new, unfa­mil­iar things to grasp and fig­ure out, com­ing at you like rapid fire such as, the effects of chemo/radiation, sched­ul­ing appoint­ments, under­stand­ing test results and doc­tor lan­guage.  The chal­lenges of care­giv­ing do not end with treat­ment.  Long term sur­vivor­ship brings its own unique set of stres­sors. Another com­mon hid­den stres­sor is feel­ing like you are not doing a good enough job. This can eas­ily lead to los­ing the feel­ing of being val­ued. It’s nat­ural to for­get your loved ones’ med­ical team, other care­givers, and com­mu­nity resources are also a resource for you to learn.

There is no rule­book on the right way to be a can­cer care­giver. How­ever, you can reduce hid­den stres­sors by choos­ing to be involved in the care plan and tap­ping into resources, such as nurse nav­i­ga­tors, sup­port orga­ni­za­tions, life coaches etc. Using these sup­port sys­tems can pro­vide recog­ni­tion, emo­tional release, and prac­ti­cal sup­port to keep you at your best.

Our last hid­den stres­sor is your loved ones’ emo­tional dis­tress. When they are diag­nosed you vow to do any­thing and every­thing in your power to help them. You expe­ri­ence a nor­mal, nat­ural urge to put on your Super­man Cape to shield them, show­ing no fear your­self to keep theirs at bay. The hid­den para­dox is you must take off the cape occa­sion­ally to be your best for them.

Wear­ing the Cape con­stantly can lead to unhealthy, stress induc­ing choices. Your loved one may insist only you can care for them. You may feel guilty for let­ting some­one else help or tak­ing any time for your­self. Guilt is a per­ceived wrong­do­ing. It is not wrong or bad to have sup­port because as Terry Tem­pest Williams notes, “An indi­vid­ual doesn’t get can­cer, a fam­ily does.”

It may be hard to believe but care­givers around the world report that tak­ing off their Super­man Cape lessens their men­tal and emo­tional strain. It gives them the abil­ity to bet­ter deal with the emo­tional dis­tress of their loved one and they feel more appre­ci­ated and valued.

Explor­ing hid­den stres­sors is not only essen­tial it ben­e­fits your well-being and has a favor­able impact on the care you give your loved one.  As coaches spe­cial­iz­ing in can­cer care­giver sup­port, we know that pro­vid­ing you with tools, tips and tech­niques gives you the oppor­tu­nity to main­tain or gen­er­ate pos­i­tiv­ity and well being. This is why we have cre­ated the Inner Cir­cle Tool­box below, a recur­ring fea­ture that will appear in all upcom­ing issues of BCW Magazine.

The first tool we are pro­vid­ing to you is the CSCC Stress Thermometer.


Inner Cir­cle Toolbox

It takes aware­ness to uncover stress. The CSCC Stress Ther­mome­ter is a quick and sim­ple to use to help you mea­sure your stress level in 60 sec­onds or less. Mea­sur­ing your stress daily will give you a clear pic­ture of your over­all lev­els. To access your Stress Ther­mome­ter Tool please go to

Choos­ing this tool is the first step in tak­ing con­trol of your stress and strength­en­ing your well-being. When you value your­self, you can be that valu­able resource for your loved one.




The Can­cer Sur­vivor­ship Coach­ing Coali­tion was founded to fos­ter pro-active choices and sus­tain­able well-being through the power of the coach­ing modal­ity. We pro­vide edu­ca­tion, train­ing, and tools that cre­ate mean­ing­ful, action-oriented sur­vivor­ship plans and solu­tions. Founded by cer­ti­fied pro­fes­sional coaches, Tam­bre Leighn MA, CPC, ELI-MP, Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld ACC, CPC, ELI-MP, and Paula Hol­land De Long ACC, CPCC, all with life expe­ri­ence and exper­tise either as sur­vivors, care­givers, and/or pre-vivors. For more infor­ma­tion visit

2 PsychosomMedKimSchulzCarver07.pdf



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