Hearing that diagnosis can be one of the most terrifying and life changing experiences you will ever have to face. We first heard those words back in 2001, so it's now been ten years that we have had cancer a part of our lives. My husband had a nephrectomy back then and he was told after the surgery that "they got it all".....but five years later it was back with a vengeance so we know all too well just how hearing the words of YOU HAVE CANCER can affect not only the patient, but the caregiver and the patient's immediate family.
It may not happen the instant you hear those words, but be assured that soon after you will feel numb, your body will go into shock mode and the world that you once thought was secure, is now shattered beyond belief.
I'm going to list some emotional feelings that YOU as a cancer patient will experience, and not only the patient but their immediate family will also have to deal with some or all of the following once you hear that cancer has come into your life.
DENIAL - There must be some mistake? It must be another patient's report? Did I just hear the word "cancer"? But I don't feel sick at all? Your first emotional reaction will be that of denial..it happens to all of us. You will need time to deal with this and then to accept what you have been given, and then prepare yourself to move forward. For us it was so devastating, because almost five years previous, my husband had been told "we got all the cancer and go home and enjoy life" and now it was back with a vengeance!!!
FEAR - Fear of dying and leaving your loved ones comes first and for caregivers and families, they face the fear of losing their loved one. Who will care for my family? How will we take care of the medical costs? Will I have to stop working? The fear that you will feel is normal and you will need to talk with other patients/caregivers to help get you through.
ANGER - Why did this happen? Why am I the one with cancer? I have always taken good care of my health. It's just not fair! Why do they keep calling and asking how I am? Again, the patient and his/her loved ones will become angry. Each for their own reasons. I know I was angry as caregiver as suddenly many people wanted to ask questions about my husband's illness - questions that even I didn't really know the answers too and it was not the time to do that. Everytime our telephone rang it made me angry, as I knew that it was someone else calling to find out how things were today. How many times could you tell the same story and it became overwhelming at times, so eventually I just didn't answer my telephone. I didn't want to discuss my husband's health to strangers and more importantly, I definitely did not want to discuss it while he was sitting right next to me. He had enough to deal with and he surely did not need to constantly hear me telling others several times a day. Just read my poem "A Caregiver's Poem" as you scroll down to the right of my blog and you will certainly be able to realize how emotional all of this was for me back then.
STRESS/ANXIETY - We all feel stress, even through good times, so just imagine how more stressful you will feel when you receive that cancer diagnosis. It's easy for me to say, but now you have to try to beat that feeling as much as you can.....why? Because "stress and anxiety" will only INCREASE your cancer symptoms and make you feel worse. I know that for a fact, as when my husband had a day of stress, most definitely he would feel alot worse so he resigned himself to the fact that he had cancer, decided that worrying was not going to make it better, and eventually DID NOT WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING - that may be difficult for most of you to understand but honestly, my husband does NOT worry about his cancer, he takes life one day at a time and his philosophy is that worry will not change anything so why stress out about the diagnosis!!! He soon developed his own stradegy to respond to others whenever they asked how he was by saying one small word "GOOD"...and that seemed to answer their question immediately without having to prolong the answer, which he did not want to deal with. Good thinking for sure! Even today he still used the same stradegy.
I on the other hand have encountered the stress and anxiety that goes along with being a caregiver, but I feel if I can take some of my husband's worry and take care of things that he does not need to know about, then it's well worth it.
Try to handle your stress by going for a walk, reading a book or just do something that will take your mind off your problems. Stress will cause you to have headaches, you will lose your appetite and you will have trouble sleeping - so try your best to destress!!!
GUILT - A cancer patient may feel guilty for causing this burden on his/her family or for causing them financial difficulty. "Nonsense" - so tell your loved one that, as they would feel the same way if you were the one sick.
LONELINESS - Your life will definitely change now that you have cancer - there is no way to avoid it. With the help of friends and family you will adjust but be prepared that your social life will change. You will need to rest more and in order to do that, you will sometimes have to reduce the amount of social activity that you are accustomed to. One important note here for friends and family would be that they remember just because the patient needs rest, does not mean they do not need to have them around anymore. If anything, they do need to socialize even more, but on a quieter scale and in a more homely atmosphere. So, stop by and see your friend or family member when they are ready for visitors and please by all means "don't ask them anything about their cancer"!!! Just keep your conversation the same as you would if cancer was not there - keep it normal!!!
One very important fact for cancer patients, caregivers and their families to remember is that all of these emotions are normal. Hospitals and cancer clinics have professionals there to help get you through difficult situations if you need extra support, so please don't ever be afraid to avail of these services. Creating a support system with other patients/caregivers/families is vital to help get you through the difficult days ahead. How do you find these people? Maybe your community or town has cancer support groups already established - keep in mind that they may not be for your particular type of cancer, but that does not matter. They will welcome you with open arms. Search through various blogs such as mine for that connection with others via their email, or FB or Skype....there are lots of wonderful people just waiting to hear from you. Ask your cancer clinic to advise of what support systems they have in place as well.
So keep positive, don't quit and remember that you are never alone!!!