Cancer can change your life and the lives of people around you.
Changes to Your Roles in the Family
- Your routines may be altered.
- Roles and duties may change.
- Relationships can be strained or strengthened.
- Dealing with money and insurance can cause problems.
- You may need to live with someone else for a while.
- You may need help with chores and errands.
When someone in a family has cancer, everyone takes on new roles and responsibilities. For example, a child may be asked to do more chores or a spouse or partner may need to help pay bills, shop, or do yard work. Family members sometimes have trouble adjusting to these new roles.
Spouses and Partners
Your husband, wife, or partner may feel just as scared by cancer as you do. You both may feel anxious, helpless, or afraid. You may find it hard to be taken care of by someone you love. People react to cancer in different ways. Some cannot accept that cancer is a serious illness. Others try too hard to be "perfect" caregivers. And some people refuse to talk about cancer. For most people, thinking about the future is scary. It helps if you and the people close to you can talk about your fears and concerns. You may want to meet with a counselor or join in Cancer Support Community programs to meet others who can help both of you talk about these issues.
Including your spouse or partner in treatment decisions is important. You can meet with your doctor together and learn about your type of cancer. You might want to find out about common symptoms, treatment choices, and their side effects. This information will help both of you plan for the future. Your spouse or partner will also need to know how to help take care of your body and your feelings. And, even though it's not easy, both of you should think about the future and make plans in case you don't survive your cancer. You may find it helpful to meet with a financial planner or a lawyer.
Everyone needs to feel needed and loved. You may have always been the "strong one" in your family, but now is the time to let others help you. This can be as simple as letting the other person fluff your pillow, bring you a cool drink, or read to you. Feeling sexually close to your partner may also be important to you. You may not be interested in sex when you are in treatment because you feel tired, sick to your stomach, or in pain. You and your spouse or partner may need to find new ways to show that you care about each other. This can include touching, holding, hugging, and cuddling.
Just as you need time for yourself, your family members also need time to rest, have fun, and take care of their other duties. Respite care is a way people can get the time they need. In respite care, someone comes to your home and takes care of you while your family member goes out for a while. Let your doctor or social worker know if you want to learn more about respite care.
Your spouse or partner needs to keep a sense of balance in his or her life. He or she needs time to take care of personal chores and errands. Your partner will also need time to sort through his or her own feelings about cancer. And most importantly, everyone needs time to rest. If you don't want to be alone when your loved one is away, think about getting respite care or asking a friend to stay with you.
Adjusting to Your New Situation
Many families have trouble getting used to the role changes that may be required when a loved one has cancer. Some of the issues you may face can include:
Cancer can reduce the amount of money your family has to spend or save. If you're not able to work, someone else in your family may feel that he or she needs to get a job. You and your family may need to learn more about health insurance and find out what will be covered and what you need to pay for. Most people find it stressful to keep up with money matters.
People with cancer sometimes need to change where they live or whom they live with. Now that you have cancer, you may need to move in with someone else to get the care you need. This can be hard because you may feel that you are losing independence, at least for a little while. Or, you may need to travel far from home for treatment. If you have to be away from home for treatments take a few little things from home with you. This way, there will be something familiar even in a strange place.
You may need help with duties such as paying bills, cooking meals, or coaching your children's teams. Asking others to do these things for you can be hard.
Developing a Plan
Even when others offer to help, it's important to let people know that you can still do some things for yourself. As much as you're able, keep up with your normal routine by making decisions, doing household chores, and working on hobbies that you enjoy. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Think about hiring someone or asking for a volunteer. You might be able to find a volunteer through groups in your community.