Caring For The Caregiver: Make Sure You're Okay Too

Caring for someone with cancer can be a monumental task. Many times, caregivers devote all of their time and energy to caring for their patient and forget about taking care of themselves. This can be very detrimental to the caregiver’s health, both physically and mentally. Check out our list of things to keep in mind as a caregiver!

Things for caregivers to consider...

  • Join a support group There are groups for just caregivers, for caregivers and the patient together, for caregivers after losing their loved one, and more.

  • Keep your friends close To the best extent possible, try to stay in touch with current supportive friends. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to win their battle with cancer, and without the support of friends and family, losing a loved one can be incredibly devastating and isolating. It is much easier to grieve and make it through such an experience when you have friends and family to help you through the experience.

  • Set reasonable personal goals! Maybe you can’t stick to your normal exercise routine, but try to do at least half an hour a few days a week, for example. Also try to set aside a few minutes each day to relax, where you can lay down or go for a walk. Don’t forget about your own mental and physical health as you help to care for someone else!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and accepting it when others offer! Many times people have a tough time asking for help when they get overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to lean on others when you need to!

  • Remember, it’s okay to be stressed. It’s not okay to feel overwhelmed this is when you need to take a step back and focus on caring for the caregiver! Ask for others to help you cover some of your tasks so you can rest up physically, mentally and emotionally.

  • If you have to take leave from your employment, be sure to know your rights. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires that businesses with 50 or more employees provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care of a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition, while also continuing their medical benefits as if the employee had not taken a leave. For more information about the act, visit the Department of Labor website:

For more information about a caregiver’s role, and resources to help caregivers take care of themselves as they care for a patient, check out the links below.

Blog by Alex Pfadenhauer & Colleen Eccles of the North Region Campus Leadership Team


ACS Programs: NUPA Guidelines

The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention

Most of us are aware that we should avoid tobacco products to reduce our lifetime risk of cancer. But for those of us who don’t smoke, or have quit, what else can we be doing to decrease our risk?

Health is undoubtedly one of the most talked about topics today. From diets to the shake weight, everyone is searching for the latest and greatest way to look good and feel even better. Well, what if I were to tell you that a healthy lifestyle is one of biggest ways to prevent cancer. In 2007, more than 84,000 new cancer diagnoses were due to obesity alone. However, studies have shown that physical activity reduces the risk of several cancers, including colon and breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has created the Nutrition and Physical Activity (NUPA) Guidelines, which focus on healthy lifestyle changes that we can make to reduce our lifetime risk of cancer. In fact, they state that for those who do not smoke, lifestyle factors such as body weight, diet, and physical activity are some of the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed.

Here is a summary of the ACS NUPA Guidelines:

Healthy Weight

  • Avoid excess weight gain

  • Losing even a small amount of weight has shown health benefits

  • Participate in regular exercise and limit high-calorie foods to maintain a healthy weight

Physical Activity

  • Adults: 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week

  • Children/Teens: At least 1 hours of moderate or vigorous intensity exercise each day, with vigorous activity at least 3 days per week

  • Limit sedentary behavior

Healthy Diet

  • Limit processed meat and red meat

  • 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day

  • Choose whole grains over refined grains

Limit Intake of Alcohol

  • No more than 1 drink per day for women

  • No more than 2 drinks per day for men

For access to the full set of guidelines, click here!

Turn the NUPA Guidelines into a game at your next Team Captain or club meeting, or use these facts at your Relay for Life event!

  • Create a Jeopardy or Family Feud game

  • Use a beach ball and write NUPA questions in the different areas of the beach ball. Pass it around the room, and whatever questions is closest to your right hand, you have to answer that question

  • Create a list of NUPA phrases or facts, and play “Pictionary Telephone”

Blog by Ashley Boone and Ross Nickles - North Region Campus Leadership Team


Dr. Gordy Klatt: A True American Hero

Relay is making a difference today in thousands of communities across the nation and in 20 countries across the globe, thanks to one man and his vision to help make a change. The movement began from humble roots, though the hard work and dedication of Dr. Gordy Klatt.

Gordy was a colorectal surgeon working in Tacoma, Washington, specializing in cancer. He wanted to support his local American Cancer Society office, and in the spring of 1985, came up with the perfect idea! Gordy spent 24 hours circling the track at the University of Puget Sound with over 300 of his friends and family, who paid $25 each to walk or run for 30 minutes with him. In the process, he walked and ran over 83 miles, and raised $27,000.

While he ran, Klatt thought of how he could improve the event in future years and continue to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Over the next year, he assembled a committee and in Spring 1986, the first Relay For Life was held on the same track as the “City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.” At this event, 19 teams raised more than $33,000, and the Relay movement was born!

Despite the success of Relay and the progress made by the ACS in the fight against cancer, over 1.5 million Americans will still be diagnosed with cancer each year, and sadly Gordy was diagnosed with stomach cancer in spring 2012. He passed away on August 3, 2014 from heart failure after battling stomach cancer.

Today, Gordy’s legacy lives on in Relay, with over 5,000 events in 20 countries, and over $5 billion raised for the fight against cancer. Although he is no longer leading the movement, his passion and dedication for fighting cancer lives on every time we Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back. As we come closer to a world with less cancer and more more birthdays, take a moment at your next Remember ceremony to reflect on the amazing impact one man has had on so many people. 

Check out these videos to hear Gordy’s inspirational words:

Blog by: Alex Pfadenhauer and Colleen Eccless of the North Regional Campus Leadership Team

ACS CAN Lobby Day 2016

Every year, hundreds of American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network staff partners and volunteers travel to Washington, D.C. for the annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. The goal is always the same: meet with our nation's lawmakers to share personal stories and ask that they make the fight against cancer a national priority. However, each year presents different challenges and objectives. 

This year, we will be calling on Congress to support three unique asks. 

First and foremost, ACS CAN volunteers are requesting an increase in cancer research funding. We have proposed a $680 million increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Current projects are seeing great success in treating cancer, but hundreds of researchers are forced to abandon their groundbreaking work due to a lack of funding. As the incidences of cancer are projected to increase dramatically over the next decade, this ask is crucial. It is important to ride the momentum of current research projects and ensure new projects are properly funded.

Secondly, we are asking Congress to support the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act. This is more commonly referred to as the Quality of Life Bill. Individuals diagnosed with cancer are faced with fear of the unknown, effects of treatment, and lingering physical symptoms of survivorship. Palliative care is an extension of care, and when used in combination with curative treatment plans, it has been proven to be most effective for cancer patients and their families. Individuals affected by cancer deserve an organized plan of overall treatment and this bill will provide that. 

Lastly, volunteers will stress the importance to support the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screenings Act. Colorectal cancer is highly preventable with the help of screenings and removal of polyps. However, a loophole exists that leaves seniors on Medicare with a surprise bill if a polyp is found during a routine colonoscopy. We must better protect these individuals, while continuing to promote yearly colorectal cancer screenings. 

Each ask is a tall order in itself, but with personal stories, as well as the passionate staff partners and volunteers, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is making great strides each year. It is our mission to further our success in the fight against cancer this week in Washington, D.C. at Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. 

Leadership Summit and Lobby Day were unlike any other event I have attended. On the first two days of our visit, over 700 volunteers from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam gathered to learn about the legislative asks and get prepared for the meetings with congressmen and women. Volunteers attended many breakout sessions where we split into groups based on experience and met peers from all walks of life. These meetings helped us gather stories to share with our lawmakers and bring back to our communities.

Lobby Day itself was a day full of emotions: power, hope, and a bit of nervousness. Meeting with lawmakers can be intimidating at first, but they turned out to be extremely receptive to all of our asks. Our personal stories helped bring reality to the legislation and proved our dedication to the cause. The day was busy and involved a lot of walking around and navigating the buildings, but was one of the most rewarding experiences we had all been a part of.

After Lobby Day, we were able to come back as a united front to share our lobbying stories. While varying states had different outcomes, no one felt defeated after leaving their meetings. We were all inspired and full of hope for the future after meeting with our lawmakers and sharing our stories. Some newcomers, like me, were able to witness the strong bonds that our veteran volunteers have developed with longstanding congressmen and women.

Lobby Day was an unforgettable experience that taught me so much about fellow volunteers, ACS CAN, and the policy aspect of healthcare legislation. Seeing so many dedicated volunteers come together for one cause is incredibly moving and inspiring. I believe all volunteers should have the opportunity to attend a local or federal Lobby Day and get motivated by volunteers near and far.

To get involved or learn more about ACS CAN and their mission, please visit

Blog written by Allison Johnson (WRCLT) and Alessia Riccio (NRCLT)

Campus FAQ's: Caregiver

What The Heck Is A Caregiver, Anyway?

Blog By: Colleen Eccles & Alex Pfadenhauer, North Campus Leadership Team

Welcome back for the 2016-2017 Relay season! With the start of the new season and the semester, we have some great information to help you connect your committee and relayers with what it really means to be a caregiver. Within the college market caregivers are everywhere, yet no one knows what it really means to be one. There are two forms of caregivers: informal and formal. A formal caregiver is someone who is paid to provide care such as nurse, therapist, social worker and home health aids. College students working toward a degree within these fields will begin to identify within these specifications post graduation and be able to help families and patients. An informal caregiver is someone who is doing it out of love, respect and friendship. Most college and post college relayers will be able to find themselves identifying within this type of caregiving title. Being an informal caregiver can mean anything from sending a text, helping with transportation or just giving your time. 

What is a caregiver?

“A caregiver is a family member, friend, loved one, or other support person who lends physical, emotional, or other support to someone at any time during the cancer journey and continues to do so for those who have lost a loved one to cancer.“
-American Cancer Society

Here’s a fun little exercise that can be used at committee meetings, at your event, etc. to help explain to other Relayers who a Caregiver truly is! (If using at a Relay event, skip the first step)

  1. Have the group brainstorm who a caregiver is:

    1. Use sheets from a flipchart and place them around the room, then divide the group up into small teams and let them work individually before bringing it back to the group

    2. Consolidate all of the groups’ ideas, and write them on the whiteboard

  2. Next, poll the group on what caregiver duties they have performed recently, by asking them to raise their hand or stand up as you call out each action

    1. First, start with the ideas from the brainstorming session. Use ‘formal caregiver’ actions first, then transition to more ‘informal caregiver’ actions. (If you are confused by formal vs. informal, see the CDC resources for caregivers!)

    2. Once you have exhausted the brainstorming ideas, transition to the list provided below. Make sure to hit the majority or all of the points on it!

  3. Now, explain what truly makes a caregiver:

    1. Explain that every single thing that people raised their hand for makes them a caregiver! If you raised your hand at any point, even if only once for calling and checking on someone, you are still considered a caregiver!

    2. Present the definition of a caregiver to reinforce that even the smallest efforts matter! (For example, use the CDC resources to explain formal vs. informal, and show that everyone ….. )

    3. Use the resources below as well as other information to demonstrate the role and importance of caregivers.

  4. Call to action! Now, you need to utilize all of this new caregiver energy!

    1. Obviously, make sure they have registered and are fundraising for your event

    2. Encourage them to get their survivor or other caregivers involved

    3. Recruit them to lead the caregiver lap or volunteer at the survivor tent/meal/etc at your event

    4. Remind them to spread the word about what it means to be a caregiver! There are so many people who have no idea they qualify, but if we start spreading the word, it will

You are a caregiver if you…

  • Drive them to or from treatment

  • Make (or buy) them meals

  • Send them a text checking in

  • Help with yardwork

  • Hold their hand during treatment

  • Pick up groceries for them

  • Help with personal care

  • Help out with household tasks

  • .... Do anything to support a survivor or their family physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Additional Resources

(Material partially obtained from the American Cancer Society Eastern Division Relay For Life Survivorship Chair Guidebook and the American Cancer Society California Division Relay For Life Survivorship Handbook)