Cliff Notes to Cancer 101, Dealing with a New Diagnosis
My friend has cancer and I feel so helpless. You shouldn’t get cancer at my age. Kids definitely shouldn’t get cancer. NO ONE should get cancer. It is just not fair! Yet, latest statistics say 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer during their lifetime. Those odds SUCK!
My father had leukemia and my grandmother had breast cancer. In those situations I was a child and had no real input or knowledge about what was happening. As we mature we become more aware, and awareness creates responsibility. Yet, this is my first time with trying to help in the midst of a new discovery of cancer. Here are a few things I have learned thus far:
1. Trying to make sense of information when recently diagnosed is hard.
It is hard for the patient to be rational and really, can you blame them? I cannot imagine trying to think straight when something unwanted appears and then you find out the bump or pain carries the word “Cancer.” The person battling cancer now senses their life is threatened but now more than ever they need to think clearly, be calm, and make logical decisions. This is very hard.
Reality: Focused communication is as important as focused treatment. If you are the patient then do NOT go this road alone. Chances are that you don’t hear much after the doctor says, “You have cancer.” Going forward the patient needs someone who can talk with the doctor when the patient is too scared to ask questions, have things repeated that the patient was too emotional to absorb, and if needed be a bridge between you and everything else.
2. “No one needs to know, I can handle this on my own”
If you are the patient, you are not doing family and friends a favor by hiding your diagnosis from them. If you are a family member and sense something is wrong, don’t go into hiding or denial yourself. Loved ones must ask questions of the person they think might be sick even if you are afraid to know the answer. At a minimum, ask how you can help. The person battling the emotions of cancer always thinks that they will be a burden. They say things like, “I don’t want to have everyone stop living to take care of me.”
Reality: When the patient does not properly inform loved ones, this leaves the family with no way to help. The result, no chance to prepare for all the things unforeseen that become the aftermath of cancer. This will drastically cause more harm than any possible burden of knowing. Imagine the impact if this is discovered without warning or too late. Adversity CAN bring out the best in people. This is an opportunity to express and demonstrate love.You might be surprised at the quiet friend or child that springs to life in the face of this obstacle. You should not ASSUME how others will react. Give them a chance. Time is of the essence and love is the key ingredient.
3. “I did something wrong.”
As unbelievable as this might sound, the person battling cancer frequently feels somewhere deep inside that they are being punished by getting cancer. Although, cause and effect is real, plenty of bad things happen to good people.
Reality: Nice people and not so nice people both get sick. Cancer does not discriminate. Going into hiding only makes these feelings grow. We are marketed into self-destructive action by suggestions about our inadequacies from all sorts of advertisements and propaganda. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Hiding your cancer diagnosis from those you love only makes it worse.
4. I CAN’T, enough is enough, no more!
If there is nobody involved to help keep things in perspective the battle can get so hard it is tempting for the person battling cancer to think that if they are just left alone and give up the fight things would be easier. Also those dealing with a recurrence will say things like “I don’t want to suffer thru that again.” The exasperation of the imperfect process of diagnosis, treatment, and an unforgiving enemy is too much to handle alone.
Reality: If you give up the fight things will only get worse. The sad and ugly truth is the result of giving up does not mean immediately drifting off into a quick and peaceful sleep. Typically, without proper treatment the suffering will be extended and worse than the very tough treatment. The choice to not fight frequently leads to spreading to other parts of the body and worsening of pain or disability.So again I say communicate! Without communication those you love they cannot fully understand what you are going through. Your support team cannot know how or when to help push the weight when you are too weak to fight.
The Bottom Line Modern medicine has made miraculous advances in treating, and in many cases curing, all sorts of cancers. It is important to stay in tune with your body. Do not ignore signs, take early action at the first suspicion. Get checked regularly because most people feel fine when they learn they have cancer. Early detection is your best chance, even better is prevention and restoring your daily health.
If you are interested in how to take preventative measures for yourself, you are a caretaker of a person with cancer, have/had cancer, or just know someone who has cancer then you should check out www.rainteam.com. This is a new community that focuses on fighting against cancer by eating healthy foods, having fun exercising, and laughing as much as possible without or without cancer. I am still learning from this experience with my friend and I would love to hear from others that can share their stories, advice, support for me, my friend, and for all of us together.