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Cancer Treatment as a Single Parent: How to Care for Your Family

living with cancerCancer is hard. And when you’re undergoing cancer treatment as a single parent, it can be even more complicated.

Everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, buying groceries and taking the kids to school can be a struggle. Between numerous doctor’s appointments, medication and the stress of managing your diagnosis and treatment as a single parent, how can you manage child care and keep your household running?

Thankfully, there are many organizations and resources available to help make caring for yourself and your children a little easier.

Coordinate Care

As a single parent, you may be used to putting your children first and taking care of everything on your own. Your first instinct may be to turn down help. But as you go through cancer treatment and recovery, it’s OK to ask for and accept assistance. Plus, family and friends often want to help but may not know the best way to chip in.

Technology makes it easier to ask for help and coordinate everything from meals and child care to transportation for you or your kids, taking some of the stress out of managing day-to-day needs and logistics. There are several services that let you (or a family member or friend) set up a calendar and send out a request for specific needs. You can also send email updates to your community about your treatment and recovery.

If you’re wary about asking too much of friends and family, some cancer care organizations and nonprofits offer services such as transportation assistance, meal delivery and housecleaning help. For example, ESME lists a number of resources for single mothers undergoing cancer treatment.

Getting Financial Support

Cancer treatment as a single parent brings on a whole new category of expenses, and it may be difficult to make ends meet. According to, some local and national organizations provide financial assistance to cancer patients to assist with the cost of treatment-related expenses such as medical bills, transportation, lodging and medication, as well as home care. Other organizations may offer financial support for child care and basic household needs like groceries and school supplies.

Talk to your oncology social worker or nurse navigator about what services might be available for you.

Find Support

Managing a cancer diagnosis can be incredibly stressful, so it’s important to take care of your mental and emotional health. Support groups are one way to connect with others who may be going through a similar experience navigating cancer treatment as a single parent. They can offer suggestions and ideas for keeping your household running, even while you’re going through treatment. Check with your cancer care team or local cancer care organization for support groups near you. Blogs and social media are also ways to connect with others online and may help you feel less alone.

You don’t have to manage your cancer care journey alone. UVA Cancer Center offers many support services, including support groups.

As a single parent with cancer, you don’t have to manage your cancer care journey alone. There are many different ways that you can adjust to caring for your children and yourself, and services you can turn to for help with your basic needs.

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