ADAPTING TO A CANCER DIAGNOSIS: SOME TIPS ABOUT FAMILY, FRIENDS AND SPIRITUALITYInform family and friends of the diagnosis and treatment.Nominate who will be your spokesperson to occasionally communicate with the doctor in extreme situations. Explain to your family and friends why you have chosen a particular person to help, and not others. Reassure them they will be kept just as informed and discuss other ways in which they can help. Ask for practical support, but take control of how you want to manage this time. It will be a natural protective urge for others to ‘wrap you in cotton wool’ and smother you with kindness. Dependency at such an early stage can reduce your capacity to feel like you are in charge of the situation. Some families and loved ones are often scared to talk about your condition for fear that ‘bringing it up’ might be worse for you or make you sadder. Sometimes confronting your fears together will bring not only tears, but relief.Some women, however, will relish in the attention and care. Draw up lists of how your friends can best help to reduce the load of the roles you normally have. Remember that loved ones need to be doing something for you at this stage … it may often be of more help to them than to you!
Reassure your children that you have the best of care and that you are fine.Managing children at this time requires extra sensitivity. Children are not stupid. Their radar instantly tunes in to any tension or anxiety in the family. Not informing them, in a manner appropriate to their age, will create more anxiety later. The hospital social worker or Cancer Council will provide information and support on how to communicate with children of all ages. They will advise on how to prepare them for your absence in hospital, or change in physical appearance. Purchase something special for the child to take care of for you in your absence – a toy, plant to nurture, special project. Give each child a special photograph of you that they will have when you go in to hospital. Some centers have special programs for the children of cancer patients. However, most children with limited knowledge of the world will be feeling highly vulnerable at this time. Identify who is really special in your child’s life and arrange for them to take special care.
Spirituality Many women have religious and spiritual values. Others turn to a ‘higher force’ in times of urgent need only. Ask networks of friends, acquaintances and strangers to pray for survival and healing. Carers and friends need to be aware that your spirituality may evolve and change during the emotional healing process and they should not be alarmed.*21/144/5*