Supporting Your Young Loved Ones Through Their Battle Against Cancer
From diagnosis to recovery, having a steady support system for a cancer patient is essential. Cancer does not only take a toll on one’s health medically but there is an enormous impact on one’s mental health too, their general outlook on life changes drastically.
Throughout this strenuous, exhausting battle with cancer, having the support of loved ones is vital.
The initial diagnosis period not only affects the patient significantly but also you as a carer or loved one of the patients.
It is challenging to support your loved one through this time of trauma and suffering as you cannot fathom the heights of damage that your loved one must be going through mentally and physically at this point in time.
But there are ways to support them whilst taking care of yourself too :
Ways to Support Your Loved One and Your Role as a Carer
Throughout this period remember to follow the 3 H’s :
One of the most important ways to support your loved one is always being honest with them about everything from topics ranging from your life and their own. Shielding them from sensitive topics will only make them feel more out of place and different than ever and feel uninformed about decisions regarding them. Establishing strong lines of communication can help you connect more as to what they are feeling.
While you encourage them to be optimistic and strong about winning this battle against cancer, do not encourage toxic positivity and do not provide them with expectations of results that cannot be achieved realistically.
Encourage them to be positive that their body will support them to its very best extent no matter how bad it gets.
Advise them to use the ideology of “take it a day at a time“. This will help them cope with the worry, panic, and scares that cancer brings upon its arrival.
Do not use sentences such as :
"I can completely understand what you are going through"
or "others have it worse"
or "don’t think about it, stay positive".
Do not compare their trauma and illness to another’s.
One’s illness cannot be compared to another’s degree of illness, not a single person has the same reaction to cancer as another, thus drawing such comparisons will not help your loved one, but will only make them feel more helpless and in their eyes you more unapproachable.
Encouraging denial to the existence of their illness is not healthy, helping them accept that they do possess this illness and then motivate them to not boundaries and limits on themselves and their capabilities is highly advisable, as this not only normalizes things a bit but also brings in confidence in the fact they will be alright and the coming times will work in their favour.
Another key point to support your loved ones is to check in on them regularly and plan activities they would normally do and enjoy.
It is important to remember as a carer that such a time isn’t about you, it's about them. Thus, you should always work with an attitude of “ I am right by your side, no matter what “ and take on the role of the listener.
Often patients tend to isolate and alienate themselves from their loved ones as they think no one will ever understand what they are going through, while it is true that you as a carer cannot understand what they are going through, you need to constantly remind them that they are not alone and you will be there for them at every step of the way.
It is vital that you follow through on any promises that you might make because actions speak louder than words here.
Allow them to feel however they are feeling and accept it.
Always encourage them to air their thoughts to you and advise them to always keep in touch with their own feelings and validate them.
Teens and children diagnosed with cancer have a lot on their plate with peer pressure, questioning anything to everything, issues with identity, their beliefs and independence, what their capabilities are and with all this how to deal with cancer and their treatment plan, it is important that you hear them out and have a listener to share their pressures and troubles with.
There will be times when they will lash out due to confusing and conflicting emotions caused due to low energy, feeling depressed, angered, and utter frustration.
There is a fine line here that you as a carer have to tread, if they are in fact having mood swings and facing emotional distress, then you have to accept their words to help them know that you will still be here right with them during such stressful and frustrating moments.
But if they are lashing out and in fact are in the wrong here, then as a carer, it is favourable to make it known to them that they are the ones at fault as cancer is not an excuse for them to get away with being ethically wrong.
More often than not patients blame themselves as the cause of their cancer or some actions in their past to be the root cause, this is called stigma.
Blaming themselves for their illness can alter the effect of their treatment and their approach to treatment and wellness. A stigmatized patient may feel more exhausted, depressed and may feel that they are more alone than they actually are. As a carer for such a patient, it is important to comfort and reassure them that they may not be the cause of their disease and even if their past actions did cause their illness, it is essential to make it known to them that they have to forgive themselves and support their body and treatment providers in this battle against their illness now.
And the basic principle of supporting them through anything is LAUGHTER.
Make them laugh, take that stress and worry off their shoulders for some time and bask in their dazzling smiles and laughs.
The best way to support them is to remind them even though it might seem dreary now, but the moments of happiness will still come around regularly.