Finding Stability

Running a Household While Going Through Treatment: How to Keep It Together When Cancer Strikes

If you keep household details in your head, take a moment to get them all down in writing.

It’s common for families to have a go-to parent, the one who handles everything and has all the details locked away in their head. If that parent is you and you get cancer, then you’re likely to find yourself running a household while going through treatment. That’s a lot to manage. Here are a few tips to help lighten the load.

Write Things Down

Brainstorm everything you can think of that you regularly manage to keep your family running. What are the kids’ schedules? When are their doctor’s appointments and what are their medications? What bills need to be paid and when? Which child needs to be woken up at midnight for a preemptive potty break? What other details of how your home functions are locked away in your head? It may be quite a long list, and you’ll likely find yourself returning to the list over time to add more items that you’ve overlooked.

Writing things down will be helpful in the long run for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that no matter how much you want to manage everything on your own, at some point you will need to accept help. Having things in writing will make it easier for someone else to jump in and lend a hand.

Additionally, treatment can be challenging. It’s hard on your body, and it’s hard on your brain. You’ll likely be exhausted, and there may be days when you sleep all day. You might also have to deal with chemo brain, a side effect of treatment that impacts memory and cognition. Having all your household details in writing means you don’t have to rely on your memory to keep things going.

Organize Household Information

Along with all the details about the tasks you perform, organize all the household information so it’s easy to look up. List out policy numbers, warranty information, license expiration dates and phone numbers for anyone who could be useful in the foreseeable future, from plumbers and babysitters to restaurant delivery services. You might consider having all your passwords written down in a safe place so at least your partner can access them.

Make sure you and your family can always find this information. Keep papers together, along with all your notes on running the home, in a brightly colored notebook that can be seen from across the room, even if it’s messy.

Create an Online Care Calendar

Using a service such as Lotsa Helping Hands, set up a care calendar that will allow your loved ones to sign up to help out with meals, babysitting or other tasks to help your family get through this challenge.

Accept the Fact That Things May Get Messy

Your family and loved ones will need to step in and help out, but they may not do everything exactly the way you would do it. The kids’ schedules may get messed up a couple times, and the floor probably won’t be mopped as often as it should, but it will be OK. This is a messy time for everyone because cancer impacts the whole family. Things may not run like clockwork, but you’ll band together to make sure the most important things are taken care of.

Running a household while going through treatment can be a huge challenge. But providing useful information will help others rise to the occasion, while you focus your energy on healing and spending quality time with your loved ones.

Running a household while going through treatment can be stressful. UVA Cancer Center offers a number of support services to help you during this time.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley