Cancer - such a short, concise word- that can bring the strongest of people down to their knees. The dreaded ‘C’; it simply destroys millions of people’s lives, directly and indirectly, without warning quietly sneaking up and striking. Today, we provide you with useful hints and tips on the different ways of coping with Cancer.
Cancer starts in the cells, initially in a specific part of the body, where cells grow and reproduce uncontrollably; these cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue including organs. There are currently 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK and it is estimated that by the end of this decade, 2020, that number will be a staggering 4 million.
Unfathomably, 1000 people a day are diagnosed and hearing those words can leave you in an utter state of shock trying to process and come to terms with the word, Cancer.
Coping with Cancer - The First Step
Being told you have Cancer and dealing with that can be unimaginably difficult to comprehend and then you have to start telling people. It is understandable that it can be difficult to tell family and friends that you have cancer and the conversation can be upsetting for you and them. Knowing where to start isn’t easy, just sitting and holding hands can say more than is needed at times, but be gradual in breaking the news, and don’t be afraid of silences.
The conversation can carry varied responses; some people can be supportive and reassuring while some might not know how to respond and may even avoid the topic all together. Talking about your situation will help your family and friends understand and will help support you for the time to come which will make you feel less alone.
Hearing a cancer diagnosis, it is natural for many different thoughts and feelings to run through your mind. You might feel upset, anger or anxiety and these such emotions can be difficult for you to deal with- there is no book or website that can tell you a right way to feel. When you are diagnosed with cancer many questions can emerge, such as:
• Am I going to die?
• Why me?
• Why has this happened to me?
• What do I do now?
These are very understandable questions to have and can linger over you and be just as problematic as the diagnosis itself. There are many unknowns and it is natural to feel lost or feel like you are losing control on your life. Being able to answer these questions or just having the courage to say them out loud will help you cope; which is why having the right support around you is important and asking for help is not a weakness.
Coping with Cancer can be a difficult task but these people are here to help:
Friends and Family
Cancer can be difficult to talk to your loved ones about, not only because you don’t want to upset them, but they might not know what to say or how to react. It is important and helpful for you to tell them that you just need someone to listen or simply just a hug will do as they want to be there to support you. It may also be helpful for your loved ones to come to doctor appointments or treatment sessions to help better understand and be there to support you through those.
Your doctors and nurses in the cancer unit have been trained about the disease which gives them knowledge that can help answer questions you might have as well as give you advice and support when it comes to you and your family coping with Cancer. It is important to ask any questions you may have because pondering the possible answer can add unneeded anxiety and stress.
Cancer support centres are a great way to seek support from professionals, volunteers and other people affected by cancer that can provide someone for you to talk to and someone to give you advice, both practical and financial. Information about local support centres can be found easily online or from hospitals.
Helplines and support groups
Sometimes, many people find it easier talking over the phone and to someone they don’t know. This can be a far easier way to talk about your feelings when you don’t have the added pressure of saying something that could be hurtful if you spoke to a loved one. Helplines such as MacMillan Cancer Support (0808 808 0000) and Marie Curie Cancer Care (0800 090 2309) have fantastic and caring experts that happily sit and listen to their callers and have knowledge and pertinent advice.
Support groups are another great way to talk about what you are going through but with the added benefit of being in a support network with other people that are going through the same things as you are. Talking with people who have been affected by cancer can help you understand what you may go through, answer those difficult questions and perhaps give you a positive outlook.
Positivity Trumps Depression
Coping with Cancer is life-altering and daunting; which can make you feel low and lost which can lead to depression. It may not be something you notice as it gradually takes a hold of you but it is important to remember that it is common and not a sign of weakness or failure.
The first step is to know there is help available, helplines, doctors and even loved ones can help, and then try focus on the positive things avoiding negative thoughts. It can be hard in such a difficult situation like coping with Cancer but being positive can really help, it is a powerful medicine on its own. Talking about your worries and putting them out in the open with friends, helplines or doctors who can then give you the reassurance you need to help bring you a positive aura.
Often, going through Cancer can allow you to step back and reflect on your life and give you a push to try new things, like making new friends, helping you embrace life a little bit more. Encourage yourself and be proud of your strength and courage as you battle through; be positive, enjoy the times you are well and have fun with family and friends.
The Friends and Family Effect
Life can change in an instant after a Cancer diagnosis, not just for you but for those around you. Coming to terms with the diagnosis, the unknowns, the treatments and your new way of life can be difficult to navigate and it is important for your family and friends to be there for you. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to do or say when someone you care about has Cancer; there are a few things that can help give your family and friends direction to help you.
Time is a valuable commodity when you have Cancer and it needs to be spent wisely. So many things change with cancer and a sense of normality with family and friends is important in feeling grounded with strong support around you. Continue family gatherings and events, perhaps spend more time together – as much as you can do - this time can help give you an escape from treatments and gain more valuable family moments.
Friendships are important in any walk of life and especially with someone who has Cancer. It is important to continue being treated the same, talking about the same things other than Cancer - sport, gardening, books, making time to talk and seeing each other can help give you something to look forward to and help your friends feel like they’re helping.
It is Your News to Tell
This is your diagnosis and friends and family need to respect that. It may have been a difficult task for you to break the news to them and you may not want to be bombarded by messages and phone calls when you might still be digesting the diagnosis yourself. Regardless of their relationship to you, asking permission to spread the word, especially on social media, should be a must as it could all be a lot to handle and overwhelm you.
Don’t Close the Door
It's easy to fall within yourself and close the door on questions. Be open, keep your loved ones involved in how you are feeling and encourage them to ask questions about how you are and about your Cancer itself. The more that they know, the more people you have to fall on and can keep that feeling of being alone far away. It may help to take some members of your family and friends to treatments and doctor’s appointments, as the professionals have knowledge and advice that could be helpful. As the disease progresses it will get ugly and coping will become hard, so it is important to have support from all angles to help keep you going.
Sometimes all you need is for someone to listen, just for you to say what’s on your mind without an opinion being countered. All they need to do is nod, smile and make eye contact which is sometimes more helpful as listening is about you and disclosing your thoughts and feelings is important to remain positive and a reassuring ear to listen is helpful.
Laughing is the Best Medicine
Cancer is tough in all aspects and sometimes family and friends can get serious - which could bring you down. Treasure those moments that you laugh, brighten up your outlook and give yourself respite and ease from the seriousness that cancer brings. Don’t think that you need to be gloomy and sombre every minute of the day hosting a pity party; live, laugh with your loved ones and enjoy warm and wonderful memories that the laughter brings.
Putting your Affairs in Order
After your diagnosis, it may be difficult in deciding what steps to take next. Putting your affairs in order can spare your loved one’s painful decisions and clear your mind of any additional worries so you can concentrate on the present. The last thought on anyone’s mind when you find out about your diagnosis is that you need to save for Cancer. There are a few things that you can do to prepare and ease your mind.
Making a will is important as it gives you the control on what happens to your property, allows you to make sure your family is looked after and that your wishes are carried out. If you don’t make a will it is important to know that it will be the state who decide who gets what which may not work out how you wish. Making a will is not easy, it may be upsetting and painful and you may think it is expensive.
Having a will can give you sense of ease - knowing you are guarding the future of your family after you are gone. It is a legal document and needs to be prepared correctly, seek a solicitor as they will know the exact wording to use to allow your wishes to be clear and ensure that that they will be carried out just the way you want them to be.
Paperwork is a nightmare, you know where everything is and where to find them but your family or executor might not. Bank statements, insurance policies, birth and marriage certificates, credit card statements and outstanding bills will all be important documents to find and keep track of. It would be useful to list things like when the car was last serviced, how to turn the boiler on and off and list your current regular payments so that they can be cancelled.
Going through Cancer and it's treatments, you will become vulnerable and to continue living independently in your home might be important to you. Give yourself and your family peace of mind that if anything happened while you were home, such as a fall or slipping in the shower, that you can get help. A Lifeline personal alarm would give you necessary help at the push of a button.
Money is always a concern and making sure debts are paid off is important as you don’t want to leave a mess for your loved ones to clean up. Clearing off credit cards and loans means that any possessions or money that you wish to leave people will easily find their way to them.
Down the line, it might become difficult to make decisions about money, your own health and legal matters due to becoming too ill. A Power of Attorney gives someone, whom you trust, the responsibility and right to make decisions on your behalf. Laws across the UK concerning Power of Attorney differ so be sure to check with a legal advisor or with the Citizens Advice Bureau. Allowing someone to make decisions about your care and your money can be beneficial so that you can concentrate on the present and not worry about bills and care fees.
In the End
Since 2014, there has been nearly 400 000 new cases of Cancer in the UK and that number is ever-growing. Cancer is devastating and affects people in so many ways, both directly and indirectly, and it has become something we can’t hide from. However, thanks to ongoing research and treatments people are living longer after diagnosis – up to 10 years compared to a mere three years a decade ago. There is constant work and building of resources on a wide scale to help make it easier for those being affected by cancer.
Life with Cancer now is not about death but more about living with the disease. The future is bright for treatments and encouraged collaboration between researchers, patients and experts is vital for continued progress and hope. Support networks exist and are deeply rooted to help as are so many other resources that are there for you and need to be used to help you on your journey through cancer.
Whichever way you decide to cope with your cancer do it with the love and support of your loved ones, be positive and prepare for the future and most importantly use your time wisely:
- Live, laugh and love.