Whether you are a newly diagnosed cancer patient or you are a friend or family member who is helping a loved one through cancer, the mere act of communicating can suddenly become a very real challenge. Where conversation was once free-flowing and casual, both sides suddenly find themselves tongue-tied, unable to return to the normal rhythms of the relationship because there are so many interfering thoughts, emotions and fears that get in the way.
The ability for both the cancer patient and their loved one to cope with a cancer diagnosis is heavily dependent upon the ability of both sides to express themselves to one another, but this is handicapped by the patient’s unwillingness to burden or sadden people and loved ones’ difficulty in not knowing what to say or how to help.
The sooner each individual faces and accepts the reality of the situation, the more quickly all involved can provide the support that will facilitate effective cancer care. Whether you are a cancer patient, a caregiver, a friend or a family member, being able to speak openly about what is happening will go a long way in promoting a sense of comfort.
If you have been newly diagnosed with cancer, you may be torn between telling all those who are important to you about your illness, and telling nobody. Each holds a certain level of appeal: you want to be embraced and consoled, and you may want advice and guidance, but you also don’t want to be pitied or treated as though you are diminished or an invalid. It is important that you take your time and tell people when you are ready to, as well as that you are selective with the information until you have fully accepted it for yourself. Many cancer patients regret having told too many people too soon, and tell of feeling overwhelmed both by the offers of help and the discomfort that it causes in many who hear the news.
One of the most important things that you can do as a cancer patient is to be open and honest. The more you understand your own feelings as well as your goals in sharing your news, the better you will be able to manage other people’s reactions. It is important that you give people enough time to adjust, just as you needed time for yourself. It is also important that you guard against feeling pushed to discuss things that you are not comfortable talking about. There are some who you will want to share your feelings with, and some who may seem overbearing in their outreach or dark outlook. Provide people with accurate information, and do not be afraid to express yourself when people are being intrusive. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help. Though it can be difficult to accept that you need assistance, remember to put yourself into your loved ones’ shoes – they feel helpless and want to do whatever they can to ease your burden. Let them.
Knowing what to say – and what not to say – can be one of the most challenging aspects of helping a loved one through cancer. When first told about the cancer diagnosis, you are likely to feel grief and fear at the same time that you feel compelled to help but aren’t sure what to do. One of the most important things that you can do to help a loved one is to try to keep things normal, acknowledging that the cancer diagnosis has made a change without them having suddenly become inextricably tied to their illness. Learn as much as you can about their cancer diagnosis in order to avoid careless or hurtful comments that are based in lack of knowledge, but only discuss their cancer treatment or symptoms if they raise the topic with you, and always be respectful of their decisions and feelings. Many cancer patients have indicated that the most challenging aspect of their illness lies in hearing unsolicited advice from those that care but are not part of their cancer treatment team – nobody wants to hear about a miracle cure, clinical trial, or horror story about some other cancer patient. The best thing that you can do to help a loved one through cancer is to continue your relationship as it was, taking the time to listen without judgment and offering specific help that you are able to provide.
Another challenge faced by loved ones is seeking financial help for cancer and dealing with the financial stress that cancer treatments can cause. Though some cancer patients turn to friends and family members to organize fundraisers to help pay for cancer bills, expensive copays, and out-of-pocket expenses, these efforts rarely provide enough to offset the costs of cancer that are faced. At Fifth Season Financial, we dedicate ourselves exclusively to providing financial help for cancer patients and other facing advanced stage illnesses. Whether you are interested in funds for paying bills, funding a child’s education, or even fulfilling wishes from a personal bucket list, our professionals are here to help make it happen quickly and with a minimum of stress. Call us today to learn more about how we can help.
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