Looking after you: top tips from family and friends

Top tips from family or friends on looking after your wellbeing if your loved one has ovarian cancer.

The type of support you need and how you cope with your loved one’s diagnosis is personal, but it's important to look after your own wellbeing. Deena and Kate, family members supporting a loved one with ovarian cancer, share what helped them cope and what resources they found useful.

When the diagnosis happened, I didn’t think about myself, and I wish I had. So many people kept saying, you really need to take care of yourself, and at that point I didn’t really understand what they meant. I wanted to say, ‘I don’t have cancer. I’m not important right now. What’s important is getting my wife through this’. I threw every ounce of physical, spiritual energy into holding her…I’m still very much depleted of a lot of my own resource…and it would have been easier had I taken more care of me.


Take time for yourself

You may find yourself spending most of your time, focus and energy caring for your loved one. You may feel that their need to be cared for at this time is much greater than your own. But it’s important to give yourself permission to look after yourself too. 

The family members and friends we spoke to suggested continuing to attend classes or activities, going for walks, meeting up with friends, or putting aside time to read a book, meditate or paint. As one family member put it, “it’s so easy to lose yourself.” 

When my wife got diagnosed, I stopped doing things like going to my dance classes. I now know that had I kept going to them, it would have really helped me mentally.


What helps you to unwind is very personal, but it's important to make time for this on a regular basis. It can be as simple as preparing your favourite meal and watching a film. If you want to try a new activity, Maggie’s centres run programmes of courses and workshops for family and friends of people with cancer. 

I wish that people knew when their loved one is diagnosed, they matter as well. You can’t look after someone else to the full capacity if you’re not looking after yourself. You need a calm space to go to, whether it’s running, or lighting a candle and having a bath, or making yourself food and nurturing yourself. It's going to be different for everyone but finding a place in yourself, finding a safe space, is really important.

Talk to others

You may be dealing with many different feelings on a day-to-day basis when caring for a loved one with ovarian cancer. Those we spoke to talked about feeling isolated, anxious, and angry. This is completely normal but there are things you can do to help. Talking to others about how you feel can help you to manage these feelings and feel more in control.

Speaking to a community

Support groups or online communities can be a major source of help, strength and community from people who understand what you’re going through. Connecting with a group of people in a similar situation can help you feel less alone as you can talk to others who have experienced many of the same feelings, fears, or worries.

Just to have somebody else saying some of the things that I was feeling and that I was experiencing was so useful.


Our online Ovarian Cancer Community is a kind, supportive group for everyone affected by ovarian cancer including friends and family. It’s a safe space to connect and chat with others who understand what you’re going through.

You can find other online and in-person support groups for family and friends:

Speaking to our specialist nurses

Our specialist nurse team have supported hundreds of women with ovarian cancer and their family and friends. Our nurses are here for anyone affected by ovarian cancer. Our support line is open Monday-Friday, 9-5pm.

What I needed was someone who really understood the territory of ovarian cancer. I phoned Target Ovarian Cancer and I had an incredible conversation with Val which was so useful because I didn’t have to translate anything.

Speaking to a therapist

You may find that those around you can’t relate to your situation or offer the support you need. This can make you feel more isolated. It can also be difficult to navigate the changing roles in your relationship with someone with ovarian cancer, especially if you're concerned about burdening them with your worries or fears. 

Speaking to a trained professional may be helpful to explore your thoughts and feelings and help you to manage them. It also makes sure that you have a set time on a regular basis focused only on you and how you are feeling. 

I had counselling for six weeks through Cancer Support Scotland, which was brilliant.


There are many different types of therapy. You may be able to access mental health support through the NHS:

Or there are directories where you can search for registered private therapists:

Mind and Cancer Research UK have more information on how to find a therapist or counsellor.

Ovarian Cancer Community promotion image

Join the Ovarian Cancer Community

The Ovarian Cancer Community is a kind, supportive group for everyone affected by ovarian cancer including friends and family. It’s a safe space to connect and chat with others who understand what you’re going through

Stay active

Gentle exercise like walking can help you feel less stressed and tired. If you go to the gym, attend a local activity, or play a sport, try to make time to keep doing this. Some people find that running or other forms of exercise really help their mental health. 

Running is not a chore… it is a huge help for my mental health. I started running before mum got diagnosed. I started doing couch to 5K and then I took part in a local charity running event and raised £1300 during the month of August. That felt like a big achievement because there was literally nothing else I could do. I needed it for the headspace. I do it because I meet new people and I get new experiences that are really positive. Running to fundraise gives you a purpose but also a chance to give something back.


There are lots of ways to stay active or increase your activity:

  • Create a routine to help form a habit. Joining a weekly physical activity class at a local gym or community centre or finding local activities to take part in can help form a routine. It creates a set time and place for you to exercise.
  • If you don't have time to join a class or club, think about how you can build more physical activity into your day. This could be a walk around the block at lunch time or trying apps and free videos that you can follow from home.
  • Try free fitness apps which can help you get motivated, track your progress or create a routine. There are many different apps you can download from Google Play or the App Store
  • You may find the NHS Couch to 5K programme helpful.
  • Cancer Research UK have lots of ideas to help you keep active. 
  • Combine exercise with socialising: join a class with a friend or meet up for a walk. That way you may find yourself more motivated and, if it is hard to make time for yourself, you can exercise and socialise at the same time.
Yoga mat

NHS Get Active

On the NHS Get Active page you can find simple ideas to be more active, home workout videos and links to free fitness apps for you to try.

Eat well

It’s important to eat as well as you can to look after yourself. Eating healthy meals can be harder if you’re busy looking after your loved one or attending appointments with them. You might lose the habit of cooking or find it difficult to prepare balanced meals if you’re living with someone whose ovarian cancer treatment means they find eating difficult.

Ask friends and or other family members if they can help you by making some meals. People often appreciate being given a specific task to offer their support. You could also make meals in advance and freeze them for times when you know you will be busier. There are lots of free batch cooking recipes available on the internet, just search batch cooking through your search engine.

Things like shopping and food. My heavens, all our friends were so desperate to do something that. They felt like they had won an Academy Award if you asked them to go do the shopping for us.


Your loved one may need to change what they eat because of the side effects of the cancer or their treatment. Side effects can include nausea, bloating or changes to taste. Find out ways to help someone with ovarian cancer if they have problems with eating.


NHS Recipes

The NHS have lots of healthy and easy-to-follow recipes ideas.

Take time to rest

Taking time to rest can be difficult if you're caring for someone who has ovarian cancer. You may be feeling a lot of worry or anxiety and may find it hard to relax. You may also be busy helping your loved one with day-to-day tasks. It's important to find time each day to rest if you can.

What can help me relax?

There are different relaxation techniques you can try to help you cope with anxiety or stress. 

Breathing exercises and mindfulness can help you to unwind, deal with anxiety and relax before going to sleep. Mindfulness is a non-religious form of meditation which can also be used in your everyday life to help you stay present, manage stress and deal with anxious thoughts. 

More mindfulness resources

  • Maggie’s has relaxation and breathing exercises and suggestions of mindfulness apps you can download. 
  • The NHS has information and videos about mindfulness as well as free audio exercises.
  • Penny Brohn has mindfulness and relaxation resources.
  • The Free Mindfulness Project share a list of short, free mindfulness sessions and breathing exercises.
  • The Mindfulness Network also share a list of free mindfulness exercises.
  • There are also apps which can help guide you through mindfulness exercises such as Calm and Headspace. These are free to download but have a subscription fee.

You might also find that a massage or another complementary therapy, such as acupuncture or aromatherapy, helps you to relax. If you decide to try a complementary therapy, it's important to find a registered practitioner. You can also ask your local Macmillan Centre, Maggie’s Centre or your local cancer support group for more information about complementary therapies for family and friends. 

Woman crossed legged, eyes closed doing yoga

Try mindfulness

Try our mindfulness taster session led by Lorrie Cameron from Maggie's, covering short and simple mindful approaches and practices. These can be used in everyday life to help you manage stress and anxious moments.

More resources and support

Target Ovarian Cancer runners taking part in Run 11

Sign up today

If you’d like a challenge, why not join Team Target in our fundraising events? You can sign up for walking or running events and take part in anything from 5km to a full marathon.

A photo of Target Ovarian Cancer's specialist support line nurses, Val, Rachel and Luisa

Our support line is open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Last review: January 2024

Next review: January 2027

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