Receiving a ping on your WhatsApp that a sibling, parent or dear aunt is diagnosed with cancer invokes a series of sudden emotions. The first shock hits like a ton of stones but won’t last. It will soon be dominated by other feelings like sadness, guilt, grief and anger. You can also presume anxiety and the worry that you may develop cancer someday; you will remember all the days you were asked during medical checkups if cancer runs in the family.
Several things can be done to help your family members, and friends cope with a cancer determination. Talk about the condition, the possible changes, medication options, support systems, and the help you can afford. Read about the type of cancer that was found, and the potential emotional and physical changes that may transpire.
Assisting your loved one in these troublesome times will be challenging but rewarding. Develop a robust coping plan. The following tips can also be useful in your journey.
- Arm yourself by asking doctors questions about the kind of cancer your family member is dealing with, side-effects of medications, treatment options and ways to best help the subject.
- It would help if you accepted that cancer patients experience physical and behavioral changes beyond your control.
- Stay cool and calm at all times – this is not about you.
- Leave your health issues and personal problems at home.
- Do not pretend to understand what the patient is going through unless you are a cancer survivor.
- Speak from the heart, show your concern, be reassuring and convey your willingness to “be there” no matter what happens.
- Take time to hear and be patient. Emotional breakdowns are inevitable.
- Avoid harmful and embarrassing situations by thinking before speaking.
- Inspire the patient to be determined and focused on dreams. Many cancer types go into remission and are curable.
- Do not forget your own emotional and physical needs. Get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, eat healthily, start an exercise program and take time. Do not quit your hobbies.
- Try to have an optimistic attitude and make the patient smile. It is unavoidable, but at some point, you will start to question your mortality. That is normal.
- Include family members and friends no matter where they live. These guys can be both helpful to the patient and give you a well-deserved break. Families living in far-away places can call or use modern technology for video-chats. A humorous letter or postcard can create a smile or laugh to brighten up a patient’s day.
Cancer patients sometimes are ashamed to ask for help. Offer to run jobs, pick up groceries, cook a meal, organise a fun outing or drive them to the hospital for medication. Every bit helps. Be prepared to adjust your support and attitude. Patients have bad and pleasant days. Also, know that it does not get more comfortable when another family member is diagnosed with cancer. Expect the same emotional turbulence.