I have a heavy heart today – yet another two loved ones are facing torturous, heartbreaking and excruciating cancer battles. And I know I’m far from alone; an estimated 128,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year – that’s a lot of families devastated by the fallout.
I’ve already lost my father to cancer and also recently watched my superwoman of a mother bravely kick cancer’s arse, too. Now, yet another two loved ones’ lives hang in the balance. So, how do you deal with the shock and agony of having someone close to you diagnosed with cancer?
Knowledge is power
You’ll want to be there for your loved one as they go through the gamut of emotions that a cancer diagnosis may evoke. But first, you need to get your own emotions under control. You can empower yourself and your loved one by finding out as much as you can about the diagnosis, nature of the particular cancer (cancer outcomes vary greatly), symptoms, and likely prognosis and treatment options. Also, talk with your loved one’s medical practitioners, if possible, to gain an accurate picture. Then, you’ll be in a much better position to talk through the situation and provide help, encouragement and comfort.
Be brutally honest
From my experience, most people with cancer prefer to know the cold, hard truth. But of course, you’ll want to be as supportive and encouraging as possible in whatever ways your loved one needs. Accompany them to doctor’s appointments if they wish – this may provide another set of ears as it’s easy to miss important details when you’re stressed.
Take care of you
Don’t neglect your own self-care when looking after a loved one with cancer. Remember to take the time to eat healthy food, exercise and use relaxation strategies – then, you can encourage the family member with cancer to do the same.
Seek outside help
There is no need to suffer in silence, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or, try counselling and support services for cancer sufferers and their families – the Cancer Council Australia’s website www.cancer.org.au is very informative and helpful. In addition, the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20, is a free, confidential telephone information and support service run by Cancer Councils in each state and territory. Trained staff will answer your questions and offer emotional or practical support. Also, ask your friends and family for support – do everything you can to unburden your load and stay healthy and sane during this tough time – don’t keep your stress and upset bottled up inside.
Cancer outcomes are better than ever. What was a death sentence for my own father 11 years ago, would more than likely not be the case today. Talk to medical experts to find out what battle your loved one with cancer is facing.
Cancer in Australia – Fast Facts
- One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer by 85
- Cancer is a leading cause of death – more than 43,200 Australians died from cancer in 2011. Cancer accounts for about three in 10 deaths
- Around 19,000 more people die each year from cancer than 30 years ago, but this is mainly due to population growth and ageing. However, the death rate (number of deaths per 100,000 people) has fallen by more than 16 per cent
- Up to 66 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis
- The survival rate for many common cancers has increased by 30 per cent in the past two decades
- The most common cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) are prostate, colorectal (bowel), breast, melanoma and lung cancer. These five cancers account for more than 60 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in Australia
Tree Of Hope breast cancer survivor tree painting via flickr.com