Alberta Cancer Foundation

3 Tips from One Caregiver to Another

This June marks one year since Deidra’s husband, Michael Kosterman, received his stem cell transplant for Myeloma cancer.

During her husband’s time in treatment, Deidra had to juggle between work and finances, taking care of their dogs, and being a caregiver. Wise with experience, Deidra shares these three tips for those caring for a loved one facing cancer.

1. Take time for yourself.

Deidra stresses how “super, super important” it is to take care of yourself while in the caregiver roll too.

“You can’t care for others if you aren’t caring for yourself. It is hard, but take space when it’s needed.”

While it’s admirable and understandable to want to devote your time and energy to care for a loved one facing cancer, it may be too easy to get lost in your caregiver role and forget about your own needs. Remember that it’s just as important to take care of yourself.

Deidra Kosterm
Deidra taking resting after a long day of travel to visit her husband, Michael, during his treatment.

2. Let them feel.

Living with cancer can understandably cause frustration and anger for loved ones, and Deidra notes that these understandably negative emotions may bleed out to others around them.

Still, Deidra reasons that the emotional process of healing is just as important as the physical process.

“They’ll have lows, they’ll have highs, they’ll have frustration. It is important to feel in this process, give them the space to.”

More specifically, Deidra advises to caregivers that there may be times where you face frustration yourself. Whether it be with the circumstance, or even the changes you notice in your partner through this time. Deidra uses the symptoms of chemotherapy as an example of this, stating that memory loss and exhaustion were things she had to get used to seeing in her partner.

While these experiences may be painful to see as their caregiver, try to be patient and strong—for yourself and for your loved one.

“They have to look out for themselves—have to be strong for themselves, and you have to be strong right back at them because they need that support.”


3. Support their independence.

As their caregiver, it may feel instinctual to do everything for your loved one. But it’s important to recognize when they need help, and when they can handle things on their own.

“It’s a fine line that you may overstep constantly,” Deidra clarifies.

Like Deidra, her father had also been a caregiver to her mother, who had battled a brain tumor for 15 years. He would rush to help at everything, until Deidra’s mother finally “smacked his hand away” and said, “Let me just do it.”

It may be worthwhile to pay attention to what your loved one can do on their own and to support their independence, while also watching out that they don’t overexert themselves. Often, this can help empower them to feel somewhat like themselves again.

“Give them the freedom to do what they need to do,” Deidra advises. “But also support them so they don’t overstretch.”

Although it hasn’t been an easy journey for either of them, Deidra is happy to report that her husband, Michael is doing great since receiving his final treatments last year, and that “everything is back to pre-leukemia.”

Deidra and Michael are blessed with a large family spanning Alberta and B.C., and they’re expecting their ninth grandchild this year.

You can read Michael’s story on our blog as well, here!