Cancer: How to Cope within the Family
A loved one being diagnosed with cancer can have profound effects on family members.
It is a heartbreaking traumatic experience that changes family relations for ever. This change is brought about by change in roles that occur within the family; children might have to assume the role of a caregiver or a wife will have to assume the role of being the sole provider as well as care-giver. There is also an increases in responsibilities as the diagnosed member has increased needs and decreased ability to take care of themselves.
They also have increased emotional needs, which will be targeted towards you when they need support or to vent. Family dynamics and relationships with friends also change given that people deal with the news differently.
It is therefore important for the family members to adapt ways to cope.
If you are the target of anger, frustration and all other negative and low feeling they may be feeling.
Please note that you are the person’s trusted person and hence someone they feel they can fully express themselves to about. Therefore, retaliating is not necessary. They have found you to be that person to share with and unload their emotions on. This maybe a family member, a friend or a therapist.
Communicate your feelings and thoughts on the diagnosis with the person. This may be hard but it is crucial in keeping communication lines open and in building a mutual support system.
Don’t treat the person as if they are incapable of giving support. Involve them. And when they do open up, don’t worry about saying the right words and acting the right way — there is no perfect way of responding — just listen. Also note that the person may not always want to talk about their diagnosis, integrate other topics of day to day talk.
Accept that there will be circumstance which will be beyond your control.
Feel free to seek out more information on breast cancer and its prognosis. Speak to their doctor if you accompany them for appointments — ask questions. Reading books and articles could also give you knowledge to understand and help them better. This will help you learn how to best be there for them as well as help you manage your expectation on their prognosis.
Finally, it is easy to get caught up in the role of a caregiver.
While it feels that your loved one needs you most, you also need to take care of yourself. Be sure that you are sleeping well, eating well, taking care of yourself emotionally, and even taking some time off for yourself. It is hard to take care of others when on a blink of a burnout. Ask for help when you need it and let others help and above all find someone to talk to.
Be it a spiritual leader, a therapist, your spouse, or a friend; don’t carry the load alone.
By Wangui Wanjiru.
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