Taking Time: Opening up about Cancer

Wednesday Sep. 8th, 2010

Cancer is hard. Coping and dealing with cancer all alone is beyond hard. Although talking about it may not be easy at first, most people find that sharing their thoughts and feelings helps them deal with their cancer. Keep these thoughts in mind as you begin to open the doors of communication with those closest to you.

Family and friends have feelings too. Just as you have strong feelings about cancer, your family and friends do too.
They may:
• hide or deny their sad feelings
• find someone to blame for your cancer
• change the subject when someone talks about cancer
• act mad for no real reason
• make jokes about cancer
• pretend to be happy or cheerful all the time
• avoid talking about your cancer
• stay away from you, or keep their visits short

When communicating with family and friends about cancer, keep in mind:
1)Choose a good listener. Friends and family members may not always know what to say to you. Sometimes they can help by just being good listeners. They don’t always need to give you advice or tell you what they think. They simply need to show that they care and are concerned about you. On another hand, you might find it helpful to talk about your feelings with people who aren’t family or friends. Instead, you might want to meet in a support group with others who have cancer or to talk with a counselor.

2)Choose a good time to share. It’s often hard for other people to know when to talk about cancer. Being direct can be helpful. Asking someone what they are thinking or feeling can help them become more comfortable. Sometimes people can’t put their feelings into words. Sometimes, they just want to hug each other or cry together. And that’s ok. Sometimes people send a signal when they want to talk. For example, they may:
• bring up the subject of cancer
• talk about things that have to do with cancer
• spend more time with you
• act nervous or make jokes that aren’t very funny

3)Be True to your feelings.  When you have cancer, you have many reasons to be upset. Both patients, family and friends try to “protect” each other from these emotions.  “Down days” are to be expected. You don’t have to pretend to be cheerful when you’re not. And you don’t have to protect those around you from these expected emotions. This can keep you from getting the help you need. Be honest and talk about all your feelings, not just the positive ones.

4)Express Anger. Many people feel frustration or anger when diagnosed with cancer. Anger may come out as actions vs. words. You may take anger out on your family and friends, and not understand why. Try to find the root of the anger. Sometimes diverting anger to your cancer instead of your loved ones can be helpful.

5)Turn to community resources for help. Support groups, mind/body classes, and education can help you learn and talk about your cancer experience. Cancer Support Community is here to help the whole family, and will reduce the isolation that comes with a cancer diagnosis. To see the calendar of events go to, www.cancersupportcommunity.org/montana or call 582-1600.

For more information on support, go to www.center4support.org or call 582-1600.