Coping When Cancer Strikes A Loved One
The word ‘cancer’ brings about an array of emotions that may include fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and guilt. When someone we love receives a cancer diagnosis, we often try to put aside our feelings so we can focus on the ‘identified patient’. This only can work for a short time, then we must face our feelings and appropriately deal with them in order to stay mentally healthy for our own sake as well as the sake of the patient.
Our relationship with the patient – spouse, partner, parent, sibling, child, friend, or neighbor – affects the responsibilities we have regarding treatment options for the patient, household tasks, etc. Taking on additional responsibilities can be overwhelming, depending on what is occurring in our lives.
We may be facing role reversal – having to make decisions regarding care for a parent or elderly person. We may be faced with caring for our spouse, child or adolescent. We may be facing the illness of a dear friend. – It can emotionally ‘tear us in two’ as we attempt to conquer our terror at the thought of our loved one suffering horribly then dying while we are helpless to alleviate pain or ‘make it all go away’ – then dealing with the guilt when we feel so exhausted and want to escape having to provide care.
For many years, the research focused on emotions the patient is facing – but there was not much available about the loved ones’ journey into a sea of emotions that are scary, exhausting, and often guilt-ridden. Financial stress and physical limitations are very real and are often ‘skimmed over’ when we are trying to adapt to this horror in our lives. Family members can be facing financial strain yet feel guilty that they are even thinking about it.
Whether our role is the mental health professional or the person struggling with a loved one’s illness, or both, there are suggestions and evidenced-based interventions that can prove helpful in assisting one to remain on or get back to a healthy path.
AA Ross Family Counseling has a board approved CEU course that covers issues faced when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer.Sign up for the COPING: When Cancer Strikes a Loved One Course