After the Cancer Diagnosis: How to Support Yourself and Your Spouse by:Jayne Hutchinson
Everyone is shocked when they first hear the word cancer. Some people may feel they know the test results before they hear them, but it's still a shock to hear the words spoken out loud. It's usually very difficult to hear or remember anything else after hearing that your loved one has cancer.
For many people, the first few weeks after diagnosis are the most difficult. After you hear the word cancer, you may have trouble listening to what is being said, and asking questions that you may have. When you are at home, you may have trouble thinking, eating, or sleeping. Remember, you are not always going to feel this way. We all struggle to figure out how and why this happened. What went wrong? We want answers, and it can make you crazy. Every cancer is different and there just aren't any answers.
You and your loved one will have many feelings after you hear the word cancer. These feelings can change from day-to-day, hour-to-hour, or even minute-to-minute. Some of the feelings you may both go through include:
Once you accept that your loved one has cancer, you may feel angry and scared. It is normal to ask Why us? and be angry at:
Your healthy friends and loved ones
If you are religious, you might even be angry with God
Anger sometimes comes from feelings that are harder to show--such as fear, panic, frustration, anxiety, or helplessness. If you feel angry, don't pretend that everything is okay. Talk to someone about your anger. Most of the time, talking will help you feel better. A lot of times caregivers don't feel like they have the right to these feelings, that only the cancer patient does. Cancer definitely affects the entire family, and you must acknowledge these feelings and work through them, for everyone's sake.
The word 'cancer' frightens everyone I know! You may be afraid or worried about:
Taking care of your loved one
Taking care of your family
Paying your bills
Keeping your own job while taking care of your loved one
Losing your loved one
Most people feel better when they know what to expect. You will feel less afraid when you learn more about the specific kind of cancer and its treatment....so read as much as you can and learn as much as you can about your loved one's cancer. Don't let the word cancer disempower you. Knowing the facts, and recommended treatments will reduce your fear, and make you a stronger partner for your loved one.
Your body may react to the stress and worry of your loved one's cancer. You can learn to handle stress in many ways, like:
Talking to people in the same situation as you are
Listening to music
Reading books, poems, or magazines
Relaxing or meditating
Talking about your feelings with family and close friends
Writing your feelings down in a journal to get further clarity around them
The key is to find ways to control stress and not to let it control you.
Lack of Control
When you first learn that your loved one has cancer, you may feel as if your life is out of control. You may feel this way because:
You are now focused on doctor visits and treatments
You feel helpless
You feel like you don't have time to do the things you normally do
Stay focused on what you can do, right now, to improve the situation. And remember, it won't always be this way.
You may find that your friends or friends don't know how to deal with your loved one's cancer and they may not ask about it or know what to say. You may not have the energy or focus to take part in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy. And sometimes, even when you are with people you love and care about, you may feel that no one understands what you are going through as everyone is focused on your loved one.
Consider joining a support group or talking to a close friend or family member that understands. It always help to know that you are not alone.
Once you have accepted that your loved one has cancer, you will often feel a sense of hope. There are many reasons to feel hopeful.
People with cancer can (and do) lead active lives, even during treatment
Your chances of your loved one's living with--and living beyond--cancer are better now than they have ever been before Many doctors and most alternative practitioners think that hope may help the body deal with cancer. Scientists are looking at the question of whether a hopeful outlook and positive attitude helps people feel better. If you are hopeful, that will help your loved one be hopeful as well.
Here are some ways you can build your sense of hope:
Write down your hopeful feelings and talk about them with others
Plan your days as you usually have done
Don't limit the things you like to do
Consciously look for reasons to hope
You will experience so many feelings as you learn to live with your loved one's cancer diagnosis. It's OK to take time to mourn and let the diagnosis sink in. It may feel like a loss of freedom and safety, but it won't always be this way. Life moves forward, and your loved one's cancer becomes just one more thing in your life that you have to deal with. Once you tackle this cancer head on, there's nothing you can't do!
Copyright (c) 2007 Jayne Hutchinson
About the author
Jayne Hutchinson was immersed into a new world after her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She found there was little information and support available for spouses and partners. She created the My Loved One Has Cancer web site to fill that gap.This web site features comprehensive resources and tools to make the cancer journey easier for the spouse or partner of a loved one with cancer. http://www.mylovedonehascancer.com