A cancer diagnosis can be as overwhelming for your family members and friends as it is for you, possibly changing your relationships in unexpected ways. Talking about your diagnosis with partners, children, and friends and family and expressing your needs to those close to you can help avoid misunderstandings that stress your relationships.
As any person with cancer knows, a cancer diagnosis affects family members and friends. Sometimes, the complex feelings and lifestyle changes caused by cancer and its treatment become as overwhelming for others in your life as they are for you. Understanding the potential changes in the way you relate to specific family members and friends may help you take steps to foster healthy, mutually supportive relationships during this challenging time.
- Roles. Cancer often changes roles, which may be a challenging adjustment. A person who has always been in charge or served as the caregiver may have trouble accepting a more dependent role, while a person who has not served in those roles may struggle to take charge and provide care.
- Responsibilities. If cancer and its treatment leaves your loved one feeling exhausted or unable to perform the usual tasks, those responsibilities may fall on other family member’s shoulders. If he/she must stop working, the partner may need to go back to work or work extra hours while, in many cases taking on caregiving responsibilities. These added responsibilities may become overwhelming and lead to feelings of frustration and resentment. Meanwhile, the patient may feel guilty for burdening the partner and feel saddened and frustrated by their limitations. Talking openly about limitations and brainstorming possible solutions will help both feel more comfortable with changes in responsibilities. In addition, although it may be difficult for both partners, it is important to accept outside help from friends, family members, or professionals.
- Needs. Because physical and emotional needs change frequently as couples cope with cancer, it is important for both partners and family members to communicate their needs. Asking for help with basic activities of daily life, such as getting dressed or washing the hair, may be difficult. However, the partner may not know that he/she need help or may not want to offend by offering it. As a result, it is important to talk openly and clearly express the needs to avoid the frustration and anger that could result from misinterpreting the spouse’s behaviour.
- Good communication. It is especially important in relationships between people with cancer and those who care about them. A lack of communication often leads to isolation, frustration, and misunderstandings. Talking about feelings and personal needs with honesty, sincerity, and openness greatly reduces the stress that cancer places on relationships. If they are having a hard time talking with people, or if others don’t seem to want to communicate with, they should consider asking for help by joining a support group or talking with a counsellor or social worker.
Now, I am not saying that all throughout, having a family member with cancer is very difficult. Well, it really is, but let us not make this the hindrance for us to be depressed, saddened or give up on our loved one. We must fight!