Nearly all tips for dealing with intimacy issues and family relationships are variations of one message: Communicate. This same message applies for friends and co-workers.
- Talk about your feelings, both negative and positive
- Be kind to yourself, as well as to your family and friends
- Be clear and direct to the best of your ability
- Find support when you need it
Sometimes you need to be with someone who can simply listen. Quiet understanding works well for some relationships, like sharing an activity, sitting and cuddling, etc.; but when it is time to put your feelings on the table, be as clear and direct as you can. Remember, however, to be sensitive to your listener. A little tact can help you get your point across.
Sometimes you need support outside of your usual network of family, friends, or religious congregation. Research has shown that support groups help reduce the three most significant stressors associated with cancer: loneliness, feeling you have lost control over your life, and feeling a loss of hope for the future. This type of support helps you sort out and communicate about your feelings more effectively.
You may feel that support groups or counseling services are for people with worse problems than you. The truth is that even the most “normal” person may have trouble coping with an intense, prolonged stress. Counseling could include individual sessions with a mental health professional, but can also be more informal. You may need a referral from your primary care doctor to get insurance coverage for mental health services, or you may only have coverage if you see someone on the company’s mental health panel. Be sure to ask if these professionals are familiar with the issues that cancer survivors have.
To find counselors skilled in oncology, consider: The Wellness Community, CancerCare phone or in-person groups, or the APOS referral network. Many cancer centers offer support groups, often divided according to type of cancer, gender, or age. It is getting more common, too, for cancer survivors to be trained to become peer counselors (sometimes also called patient navigators) so that they can use their own experience to help others see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- The Lance Armstrong Foundation’s LIVESTRONG™ SurvivorCare program offers counseling services; help with financial, employment, or insurance issues; and information about treatment options. LIVESTRONG™ SurvivorCare is for all cancer survivors, including those diagnosed, caregivers, family, and friends.