Your Own Feelings
Your Own Feelings

Remember that during times of cancer treatment, the patient is likely to need a lot of help and that the patient will recover from the symptoms after treatment ends (e.g., the side effects of chemotherapy will go away after the treatment ends and the patient will begin to get her energy and her hair and her appetite back again).

Most important: More and more people are surviving a cancer diagnosis and living good, happy lives for many years.

We all know that we are going to die some day. The goal is to help the cancer patient survive the cancer and that death not be related to the cancer.

Allowing other Loved Ones (perhaps outside of the family) to Help

  • With food preparation, e.g., Have people sign up to take turns preparing an easy, healthy meal for the patient and her family.
  • With transportation and emotional support back and forth to medical providers (again, consider a sign-up list of family, friends, co-workers who will help the patient keep her appointments ... sometimes very challenging because she may not want to go for her treatments)
  • With daily living (e.g., to help patient dress, bathe)
  • Find someone from the patient’s work site to help handle job-related issues, such as medical benefits

Sharing Your own feelings and fears.

  • With Friends
  • Through Cancer Support Groups and Counseling

Living your Life without guilt

  • You still must keep your own family and yourself in balance while helping the cancer patient. Schedule some time every day to allow yourself to recovery, to rest, to deal with your own emotions.
  • A fairly common sentiment: "I can’t make any plans because I feel too guilty when I leave her for the rest of the family to care for ... she likes me to be there." Although this may be very true, you cannot do it all yourself (although most of us try for a while). You are of no help to the patient if you allow yourself to become run down, over-tired, and irritable.

Knowing when to escape ... how to attain "balance"

  • It may be for a half hour in the morning to do your morning prayers, or for a lunch break with your friends, or do work on a basket or jewelry; but you need to take breaks from being the primary care-giver. Such breaks help maintain some balance ... these breaks allow you to heal a bit yourself. They also allow you to be more patient and supportive when the cancer patient needs you.

Dealing with your own fears of also developing cancer

  • Among the fears that occurs while caring for a cancer patient is that you too can develop cancer .... this is not to imply that cancer is "catchy" or "contagious", but rather that cancer has no prejudices and incredibly wonderful people as well as weaker personalities do develop cancer.
  • This issue is not really, "Why Me?" but "Why Not ME?" Although certain behaviors increase one’s risks for developing cancer (like habitual tobacco use, abusive alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, high fat and low fiber diet), others with healthy lifestyles can also develop cancer ... it is just less common.
  • So you, the care-giver, need to evaluate your lifestyle and take part in healthier daily living and in cancer screening. Talk with your provider and let him / her know that you have a family member who has been diagnosed with cancer. The provider will review your own risks for developing the cancer.
  • The closer the blood relationship, the more likely the provider is to feel that you are at greater risk. For example, is the cancer patient is a parent, sibling, or child of yours, you are a "first degree relative" and are more at risk than is an aunt or a cousin. Being more at risk does NOT mean you will develop cancer. It simply means that you may be 5% more like to develop cancer than is your neighbor who is not a blood relative.
  • Throughout Indian Country, we "adopt" children, parents, and friends and make them part of our families. There frequently is no blood tie with these adoptive family members. There is no familial cancer risk to these adoptive family members.

Traditional Healers’ Advice

  • Traditional Indian healers will conduct ceremonies for the loved ones and family members of the cancer patient, in addition to the ceremonies performed for the cancer patient. These ceremonies help the family express their own feelings and allow family members to become more supportive of one another while caring for the cancer patient. The ceremonies heal more than the crises at hand.

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