Finding out a loved one has cancer can be overwhelming. Cancer affects not only the person diagnosed but all those who care about that person. You may be wondering, “What should I do now?” or “How can I help?” –
There are many sources of support for people facing cancer. The American Cancer Society is a great resource that can assist you in finding local support groups and services. Many people find that one of the best ways to cope with stress, uncertainty, and loneliness is to talk to others who share similar experiences. If you or your loved one is not yet ready to meet with other individuals, you can always look into online support groups as well. You can learn from other’s personal experiences how to be effective in your role as a caregiver. Everyone, no matter how emotionally strong they are, can be helped by support.
People with cancer sometimes take out their anger and frustration on those around them. They do this because these people are safe outlets. They know you’ll still be there for them, even if they behave badly or create tension. Other times, a person with cancer can seem to become childlike and passive, looking to others for direction.
It can be very hard for an adult child to see a parent act this way. Try to understand that this is one way of acting out how helpless and weak they feel. These are normal feelings to have when a person has cancer. Though the disease may limit their ability to do some things, it’s usually best for the person with cancer to keep living as normally as possible. Continuing to be a responsible adult can give them a sense of meaning, confidence, and control. Try to not react emotionally to the changes the person is dealing with.
Cancer and cancer treatment often comes with a variety of side effects. An important part of cancer care is relieving side effects, otherwise known as symptom management. Be observant and listen to your loved one regarding any side effects. Report side effects to your loved ones healthcare team for advice on the best way to manage and treat them. Common side effects range from dehydration, attention and memory problems, clotting, hair loss, bleeding, appetite loss, constipation, taste changes, weight gain, and skin conditions to name only a few. The list is much longer and varies from person to person based on the type of cancer they have.
One of the most important things that you can do for your loved one during this time is to be there for them. Listen to them. They may not always need you to say something back, but just to be a shoulder to lean on. Remember that they are still the same person that they have always been. A diagnosis does not change this. Have fun with them! Embrace all the hobbies and activities that they have enjoyed all of their lives. Be creative and find new ways to help them enjoy life if they’re no longer able to do what they were once able to. Help them to live every day like it’s their first. When you are faced with life threatening illness, living every day is the best gift ever, and you can be a huge factor in happiness!