Making Time For Yourself As A Caregiver
- Robin Roberts, who previously battled breast cancer herself, is now supporting her partner, Amber Laign, as she takes on her own battle with the disease.
- But she’s still made time for her work as she supports her partner. Recently, she went to war-torn Ukraine to interview the First Lady of Ukraine.
- Pastor Tom Evans of the Brick Presbyterian Church says caregivers should “remember that you can’t care for someone else properly unless you’re strong. So don’t hesitate to find those times.”
- Many women develop breast cancer every year, and the disease is the subject of much research. There are many treatment options out there, but treatment paths depend greatly on the specifics of each case.
Good Morning America star and breast cancer survivor Roberts, 61, has been with her partner Laign, 47, for about 17 years. The couple has been together through many highs and lows – including Roberts’ battle with breast cancer.Read More
But in February, Roberts shared that Laign now has to face breast cancer as well. And in an interview from just the other day, she gave an important update regarding her partner’s cancer journey.
“She’s had some complications with the chemotherapy,” Roberts previously told Entertainment Tonight. “They’re working it out. We’re gonna figure it out. The prognosis is still very good.”
Complications with chemotherapy are not uncommon, but they can be scary. So, Roberts is doing everything in her power to support her loved one during this difficult setback.
“I didn’t realize how much I had blocked out during my journey, and it was because of sweet Amber—because she protected me and navigated for me,” Roberts said in a previous interview with Ellen Degeneres. “So, I’m doing the same thing for her.”
But, thankfully, it seems like Roberts has found a balance in taking care of Laign while also making time for herself and her work. Most recently, she took a work trip to Ukraine amid the country’s ongoing war with Russia.
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“Today in Kyiv I sat down with Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine,” she wrote in her caption.
It was likely hard for Roberts to leave Laign’s side, but it’s important for caregivers and loved ones to prioritize time away from caregiving. And though that time away looks different for everyone, for Roberts, it may just be making time for work she’s passionate and excited about.
The Complexity of Caregiving
When you take on a caregiving role, there’s a lot that can fall on your plate. It’s important to understand your loved one’s diagnosis and help them follow the instructions from the cancer-care team.
“I encourage caregivers to come in to visits with my patients, because in that way, the caregiver is also listening to the recommendations — what should be done in between these visits, any changes in treatment plans, any toxicities [side effects] that we need to look out for, changes in dietary habits, exercise, etc.,” Dr. Jayanthi Lea, a gynecologic oncologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
That being said, it’s natural that filling this role can bring up a whole host of emotions. Tom Evans, a pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church located in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood of New York City, previously spoke with SurvivorNet about the complexity of caregiving.
“When you find yourself suddenly having to care for somebody, to be the primary lifeline for them, you very well could have mixed emotions,” he said. “Maybe it’s anger. Maybe this person never cared for you in the past, and now you have to do it for them. And maybe you’re gonna feel like you’re selfish when you need a break.”
But Evans wants caregivers to prioritize their own wellbeing too and remind people filling this role that noone can be a caregiver 24/7.
“It’ll break anybody,” Evans said. “Just remember that you can’t care for someone else properly unless you’re strong. So, don’t hesitate to find those times.”
He also added that caregivers need to find time away from caregiving and even find time for others to help them. They also should, in his opinion, make sure the emotions they feel throughout their caregiving journey are being heard.
“In those frustrations and that anger, take time to find someone to express that to,” he said. “Whether it’s a friend, whether it’s a pastor, whether it’s a neighbor, because as you work that out of your system, you’ll be better, able to be there for them.”
Understanding Robin Roberts’ and Amber Laign’s Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. And while mammograms aren’t perfect, they are still a great way to begin annual screening. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends women begin mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45. Even still, we know that a breast cancer diagnosis can come at any age.
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, it’s important to be vigilant and speak with your doctor. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with breast cancer, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.