Emotional support for family members

If you are caring for someone with pancreatic cancer it's important to find support for yourself too. We explain how to find emotional support for you and your family.

What's in the 'Information for family members' section?


When someone close to you has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer you will probably have different feelings at different times. These might include shock, distress, fear, confusion and denial. It may be hard to know what you feel, or how to explain your feelings to others. You may feel that you don’t know what to do, or that you don’t know enough about pancreatic cancer to help them. If your family member has been unwell for some time, you may even feel a bit relieved that at least now you know what is wrong with them. There is no ‘right’ way to feel, and how you react will be very individual to you.

When you are caring for someone with cancer, you might think that your feelings come second to theirs, or you might be too busy to think about how you are feeling. Your family member may be everyone’s focus, but that doesn’t mean that what you do as their carer is not appreciated.

You may think that you always have to be the strong one who copes with everything. And you may find it difficult to talk to your loved one about their cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support have information on talking about cancer.

People tell us that one of the hardest things can be feeling that you are the only person in this situation. But you are not alone. Many others are going through similar experiences, and there is support available. Make sure you get support when you need it.

I first felt bad for asking for so much help, but I realised I needed it for my Mum, for my family and for myself. There is no shame in needing help and asking for it.

Who can you contact for emotional support?

Getting some support for yourself can be helpful. It can also help you support your family member better. Your family and friends can be great sources of support – just having someone to talk to can be a huge help.

The medical team looking after your family member can also help – especially their main contact or specialist nurse who can provide emotional support. If your family member is being cared for at home, their main contact may be their GP or community nurse – such as the district nurse.

Asking your family and friends for help with tasks like shopping, cleaning, or looking after children can be a big help. Make sure you have breaks from caring and look after yourself – try to see friends and do things that you enjoy. And try to get enough sleep and eat well. Read more about dealing with daily life, such as help with transport to the hospital or information about work and money.

How can we help?

Our specialist nurses on our confidential Support Line speak to lots of family members and friends, and understand the issues and concerns you might have. Their expert help will support you in coping with pancreatic cancer.

You can also chat to others affected by pancreatic cancer on our online forum, read real life stories written by family members and carers, and download or order our information covering everything you need to know about pancreatic cancer.

Your family member may also find our Living with Pancreatic Cancer Support sessions helpful. The sessions are run online, and give them the chance to connect with others with pancreatic cancer.

Read more about the support services we provide.

Support groups

There are cancer support groups around the country where you can meet other people going through similar experiences. They are often open to families as well as the person with cancer. There are also support groups for people caring for someone with cancer. Your family member’s nurse will know what groups are available in your local area.

Organisations supporting carers

There are organisations that offer information and support for carers across the UK. These include Carers UK, Carers Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

There are also carers’ centres that provide free support for carers. Carers Trust have more information, or ask your local council if there’s a carers’ centre in your area. In Scotland, England and Wales carers can also visit a Maggie’s Centre for emotional support. In Northern Ireland, an organisation called Cancer Focus Northern Ireland can provide information and support.

Counselling

It can be emotionally draining when someone close to you has pancreatic cancer. People often find their own ways of coping, but you might find counselling helpful.

Counselling gives you a safe place to come to terms with your feelings, and helps you find ways to cope. You may be able to find a counsellor who specialises in supporting carers through your GP, hospital or hospice. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has information about counselling, and you can search for a counsellor who deals with cancer.

I had access to an advice line at work; I spoke with my doctor three times, and joined a support group. I focus my energy into doing positive things which has helped me.

Updated September 2019

Review date September 2021