"My father and I are so much closer. It's a totally different family than we were before I was diagnosed. We've learned how to talk about how we feel, how to talk to each other about what's going on and what we're afraid of." - Charles
Your loved ones may need time to adjust to the news that your cancer has returned. They need to come to terms with their own feelings. These may include confusion, shock, helplessness, anger, and other feelings.
Let family members and friends know that they can offer comfort just by:
Bear in mind that not everyone can handle the return of cancer. Sometimes a friend or family member can't face the idea that you might not get better. Some people may not know what to say or do for you. As a result, relationships may change, but not because of you. They may change because others can't cope with their own feelings and pain. If you can, remind your loved ones that you are still the same person you always were. Let them know if it's all right to ask questions or tell you how they feel. Sometimes just reminding them to be there for you is enough.
It's also okay if you don't feel comfortable talking about your cancer. Some topics are hard to talk about with people you are close to. In this case, you may want to talk with a member of your health care team or a trained counselor. You might want to attend a support group where people meet to share common concerns.
Some families have trouble expressing their needs to each other. Other families simply do not get along. If you don't feel comfortable talking with family members, ask a member of your health care team to help. You could also ask a social worker or other professional to hold a family meeting. This may help family members feel that they can safely express their feelings. It can also be a time for you and your family to meet with your entire health care team to solve problems and set goals. Although it can be very hard to talk about these things, studies show that cancer care is a smoother process when everyone remains open and talks about the issues.
People Close to You
Often, talking with someone close to you is harder than talking with anyone else. Here's some advice on talking with loved ones during tough times.
Spouses and Partners
Keeping your children's trust is very important at this time. Children can sense when things are wrong. So it's best to be as open as you can about your cancer. They may worry that they did something to cause the cancer. They may be afraid that no one will take care of them. They may also feel that you are not spending as much time with them as you used to. Although you can't protect them from what they might feel, you can prepare them for these feelings.
Some children become clingy. Others get into trouble at school or at home. It helps to keep the lines of communication open. Try to:
Teenagers have some of the same needs as those of younger children. They need to hear the truth about an illness. This helps keep them from feeling needless guilt and stress. But be aware that they may try to avoid the subject. They may become angry, act out, or get into trouble as a way of coping. Others simply withdraw. Try to:
If you have trouble explaining your cancer, you might want to ask for help. A close friend, relative, healthcare worker, or trusted coach or teacher could help answer your teenager's questions. Your support group, social worker, or doctor can also help you find a counselor or psychologist.
"It's a roller coaster ride, so we just ride the roller coaster. I've got the whole family prepared, and that's what you have to do when you have cancer. Things are going well one minute, then change to really bad the next." - Gwen
Your relationship with your adult children may change now that you have cancer again. You may have to rely on them more. And it may be hard for you to ask for support. After all, you may be used to giving support rather than getting it.
Adult children have their concerns, too. They may start to think about their own mortality. They may feel guilt, because of the many demands on them as parents, children, and employees. Some may live far away or have other duties. They may feel bad that they can't spend as much time with you as they would like. Often it helps to:
Try to reach out to your adult children. Openly sharing your feelings, goals, and wishes will help them adjust. It will also help prevent problems in the future. Remember, just as parents want the best for their children, children want the best for their parents. They want to see your needs met effectively and with compassion. Your children don't want to see you suffer.