Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living With Cancer: Changing Lives & Changing Roles

For millions of American families, cancer is like the uninvited houseguest who just won't leave. Soon after arriving, cancer begins to meddle in the family's personal business.

Physical symptons, hospital admissions and for many the inability to work may force a person to give up one or more roles in the family: wage earner, cook, childcare provider, chauffeur, decision maker, housekeeper and more. Not surprisingly the individual often feels angry and frustrated about losing a role that he or she has had for many years or is new at and was truly enjoying.

Cancer survivors may become angry with their spouses, children, parents and even healthcare providers as they struggle to cope with their changing lives. Roles describe who we are and what we do in our families similar to job titles at work. When we are able to carry out our roles we feel satisfied and proud. Our work is important to keep the family running and gives us a sense of worth. But when illness or dissability  strikes, we sometimes can't carry out our roles.

When we are forced to give up our role within a family for any reason  we often feel embarrassed, ashamed or as if we are of no value anymore. What can families do when cancer enters the family? Ignoring cancer and it's impact does not make it go away. When families can talk about cancer, even the sad and awful parts of the illness it is easier to figure out how to cope.

It helps to admit when has been taken away by the cancer, such as the ability to drive a car, prepare family meals, or even go to work and to grieve those losses. Yet, there is one thing that cancer cannot change: the fact that each persons worth comes not from doing but from being. Honoring self-worth diminishes the power claimed by cancer.

Honoring  your life and the love you have experienced and shared may be a difficult task when you are facing so many changes and psychological losses through the cancer experience but recognizing that you are valuable because you are loved and not because of you what you can or cannot do for the moment will help you feel better sooner.

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