According to the American Cancer Society, three out of every four American families will have at the minimum one family member who is diagnosed with cancer. A cancer diagnosis affects not only the cancer patient, but also their families, friends and coworkers. If you’re a caretaker, a spouse, family member or friend of someone diagnosed with cancer, find sustain from others who understands what you are going by.
A cancer diagnosis can be a real crisis; everything has been turned upside down and you don’t know where to turn. There is also a profound feeling of helplessness, of not knowing what to do as you struggle to comprehend your own feelings and, at the same time, provide reassurance and sustain to your loved one. You may need to be able to help your loved one navigate the maze of details that join a cancer diagnosis – finding an oncologist, understanding their treatment options, furnishing health updates to others and managing side effects.
Here are some tips to help you cope when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer:
- One way to keep from feeling helpless and overwhelmed is to offer sustain. Offer to help with functional things such as driving them to treatments or doctors appointments, run errands, babysit, doing housecleaning, gardening, or yard work. Ask them what they are most concerned about not being able to do.
- Ask the doctor questions if you join your loved one to their appointments.
- Be prepared for changes in their behavior and mood. Cancer medications, sickness, and stress can cause your loved one to become depressed or angry.
- Encourage them to be as active and independent as possible. This will help your loved one regain a sense of confidence and control over their life.
- Be realistic about your own needs. Get enough sleep, eat properly, and take some time off for yourself. It is hard to be of much help when you are depleted and sick. If you take care of yourself and your needs, it will be easier to meet the needs of your loved one.
- Ask other family members and friends for help. They will appreciate the opportunity to help.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Accept that there are some things that are out of your control.
- Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.
- Fight stress, learn to relax. Exercise regularly.
- Give yourself permission to not know the right answers; it is OK if you just listen.
- Join a sustain group for friends and families of cancer patients.
Remember that you are not alone if someone you love is diagnosed with cancer. Help and sustain are obtainable in many forms. You will likely experience a conflicting range of emotions, including disbelief, denial, anger, relief, worry and already guilt. Fears of mortality, changing family roles, having your own needs met, and uncertainty about the future can surface when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer. These are normal feelings and it may be advantageous to talk with others who are experiencing the same problems.