Having my mom here reminded me of how hard it is to be a family member of someone who has cancer. One person doesn’t have the cancer; the whole family has it. It affects all of the people who care about the person who is actually having the treatment.
How can family and friends know what to do to help? We are all learning that together as we go. I came up with some thoughts on how my family and friends can help me that I hope will be helpful. It’s probably different for every person, but these are the things that come to mind:
- Don't treat me like a sick person. I know I have cancer. I know I am having chemo. But I don’t want my life to be about cancer and being sick. Some days I feel sick, but not every day. Some days I feel pretty damn good.
- Leave me alone when I’m cranky. On low energy days I feel like lying on the sofa in front of the TV. I don’t want to have to pretend to be ‘up’ and just want to wallow in it for awhile. Don’t worry, I’ll snap out of it when my energy comes back in a day or two.
- Support my decisions. I’ve spent a lot of time looking into and thinking about my options. There is no absolute right answer for anyone in this situation. Each person has to make choices that they feel good about and they feel will work best for them. I know I can be pig-headed, but I’m comfortable with the choices I’m making.
- It's OK to talk about your sadness and fears. You won’t remind me that I have cancer. Believe me, I haven’t forgotten. I’m pretty open about what I’m going through and don’t have a problem going there with you if you want to. Just as long as we don't get stuck there.
- Come out and play. I want to spend nice days outside in the sunshine and nature. Let's go for a walk, paddle a kayak, sit by the water or check out the fall leaves.
- Laugh! You can’t deny your emotions when you feel sad, but there are also times when finding humor in a tough situation can ease the stress. Laughter is not only the best medicine, it's the best way I know of giving cancer the finger!!! If I can still laugh, I know I'm OK.
Here's a site with some great general advice on how to help someone who has cancer: http://www.circusofcancer.org/HTH-toc.html.