Thursday, November 3, 2011

Learning You Have Cancer: Family Matters

Cancer will change your life and the lives of people around you.
  • Your routines may be altered.
  • Roles and duties may change.
  • Relationships can be strained or strengthened.
  • Dealing with money and insurance can cause problems.
  • You may need to live with someone else for a while.
  • You may need help with chores and errands.
Most people find that if they, their friends, and family talk about the cancer and how it makes them feel, they feel closer to each other.

Families are not all alike. Your family may include a spouse (husband or wife), children, and parents. Or maybe you think of your partner or close friends as your family. In this book, "family" refers to you and those who love and support you.

Cancer affects the whole family, not just the person with the disease. How are the people in your family dealing with your cancer? Maybe they are afraid or angry, just like you.

When you first find out you have cancer and are going through treatments, day-to-day routines may change for everyone. For example, someone in your family may need to take time off work to drive you to treatments. You may need help with chores and errands.

How your family reacts to your cancer may depend a lot on how you've faced hard times in the past.

Some families find it easy to talk about cancer. They may easily share their feelings about the changes that cancer brings to their lives. Other families find it harder to talk about cancer. The people in these families may be used to solving problems alone and not want to talk about their feelings.

Families that have gone through divorce or had other losses may have even more trouble talking about cancer. As one woman with advanced thyroid cancer said,

"Talking about my cancer was rough at first. My husband and I divorced five years ago, so my mom had to move in and help me with the boys. Eventually, I was able to tell my ex-husband about my cancer, and he helped the boys understand. Our family has been through a lot, and we'll get through this, too. To me, the only constant in life is change."

If your family is having trouble talking about feelings, think about getting some help. Your doctor or nurse can refer you to a counselor who can help people in your family talk about what cancer means to them. Many families find that, even though it can be hard to do, they feel close to each other when they deal with cancer together.

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