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Coping with school or work when cancer comes along (when a family member has cancer)


Coping with work and school while a family member is diagnosed with cancer can be incredibly challenging, as it involves juggling multiple responsibilities and emotions. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this difficult situation:

  1. Open Communication: Talk to your teachers/lecturers and employers about your family member’s diagnosis. Let them know about your situation and any potential impact it might have on your attendance, assignments, or performance. Many people are understanding and may offer support.
  2. Create a Support Network: Reach out to friends, family, classmates, co-workers, and teachers/professors for emotional support and assistance. Let them know what you're going through, and don't hesitate to ask for help when needed. You might want to share some of the relevant videos we’ve created here to share with friends:
  3. Time Management and Organisation: Plan and manage your time carefully. Use tools like calendars, planners, and to-do lists to stay organised and ensure you're keeping up with both school and work responsibilities.
  4. Set Realistic Goals: Recognise that you might not be able to perform at your absolute best during this challenging time (that is completely normal, and okay). Set realistic goals and prioritise tasks to avoid burnout.
  5. Seek Flexibility: Explore flexible options such as remote work, flexible hours, or accommodations at school that can help you manage your responsibilities while being there for your parent.
  6. Self-Care: Remember to take care of yourself. This includes getting enough rest, eating well, staying physically active, and engaging in activities that help you relax and unwind. This can be tricky, particularly if you are also caring for your family member. Caring for yourself well allows you to have the energy to sustainably show up for those you love.
  7. Talk as a Family/Household: Have an open and honest conversation with your family/household about your family member’s diagnosis, treatment plan, and how you can best support each other. Sharing your concerns and feelings can strengthen your bond and reduce stress.
  8. Stay Informed: Learn about your family member’s condition, treatment options, and potential side effects. Being informed can help you better understand their needs and provide appropriate assistance.
  9. Flexible Study Habits: Adapt your study habits to accommodate the demands of your situation. Utilise short study sessions, study groups, and online resources to make the most of your available time.
  10. Delegate and Ask for Help: Don't hesitate to delegate tasks at work or ask classmates for notes or help with assignments. People often want to help; you just need to communicate your needs.
  11. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognise that you're doing your best under difficult circumstances. Don't be too hard on yourself if you encounter challenges or setbacks – it’s to be expected.
  12. Take Breaks: Give yourself permission to take breaks when needed. Overexerting yourself can lead to burnout and negatively impact your ability to support your parent and manage your responsibilities.
  13. Consider Counselling: If the stress becomes overwhelming, consider seeking counselling or therapy to help you cope with the emotional challenges you're facing.

Remember that it's okay to ask for help, and you don't have to navigate this situation alone. Both your school and workplace may offer resources to support you during this challenging time. Prioritising self-care and seeking support from your network can help you manage your dual roles as a student/employee, and a supportive family member.

By Mona H, Online Counsellor, Canteen Australia