Category Archives: Caregivers


Exercise lowers stress

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is E is for Exercise Lowers Stress.

You may not be able to change the things in your life that are causing you so much stress, but you can do things to improve your ability to handle it. There are several ways that exercise lowers stress. Don’t worry. I’m not advocating that you beat yourself up at the gym every day, but regular exercise lowers stress and can become an enjoyable part of your life.

Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.
—Arnold Schwarzenegger

Physical Ways Exercise lowers stress

For starters, it improves sleep. A good night’s sleep is an important part of combating high-stress levels. Studies have shown that the less a person sleeps each night, the more stressed they feel. This becomes a cycle because people who are under a lot of stress have a harder time getting a good night’s sleep. This is where exercise comes into the picture. “People sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.(1)” So, by exercising, you can improve the quality of your sleep. This, in turn, will lower your stress and improve your ability to cope with the stressful things that come up day to day.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Exercise reduces adrenaline and cortisol, the body’s stress hormones. It also stimulates the production of endorphins. These are chemicals in the brain that improve your mood and act as the body’s natural painkillers. They are also responsible for what is known as “runner’s high.” This is why you can feel good after a tough workout.

It keeps you healthy

Regular aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and helps fight obesity. Having better overall health mean less time in the doctor’s office. You will have an improved immune system. The healthier you feel, the greater your ability to deal with stressful things that happen.

Exercise increases your endurance so you can keep up with the pace of caregiving. You will have more energy to get the things done that you need to every day. As your to-do list shrinks, you will have less hanging over your head. You’ll feel less stressed.

There are mental ways exercise lowers stress

With regular physical activity, over time, you become stronger and more disciplined. Toned muscles and improved confidence can even result in better posture. All of this contributes to a better self-image.

Exercise also gives you an opportunity to get away from the stress of caregiving for an hour. Exercising using large muscle groups in a rhythmic fashion, such as walking or rowing, is also known as muscular meditation. You can get lost in the tranquility of it, renewing your mind. It is a wonderful time to pray and think creatively. More problems would be solved if people took more walks.

Finding the time and energy to exercise

As a caregiver, your time is valuable. It may seem difficult to integrate exercise into your lifestyle. There are some things that you can do to add extra activity to your current schedule.

  • Exercise reduced stressInstead of looking for the parking spot nearest to the door, park further away giving you an extra amount of steps each day.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible. Even in your own home. You can go up and down your stairs to your favorite song. Do this a couple times each day to add an aerobic boost to your routine.
  • If the weather is nice, take a walk in your neighborhood a couple of times a day. You not only get physical activity, but the fresh air will lift your mood as well.
  • If you want more of a challenge but time and convenience are issues, try a DVD. There are many types of exercise routines you can try, walking, Qi Gong, kickboxing, stretches, aerobics, and more. You can even find these on streaming sites.
  • If you are moving from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, you may want to start out slow. You can move to more challenging activities by either increasing the length of time you exercise or by looking for activities that use different muscles. You might alternate aerobic exercises with strength building ones.

However you integrate exercise into your lifestyle, you will find that exercise lowers stress in many ways. You’ll be glad you did it.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

(1) The Sleep Foundation,Study: Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep; https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep]

Originally posted 2018-04-05 07:00:15.


Depression

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is D for Depression in Caregivers.

When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, all of my attention and energy was focused on finding out as much as we could about his disease and the potential treatments. With each new treatment, we adjusted to different side effects. We tried to help our daughters through the roller coaster of emotions they were experiencing. We dealt with the reactions of our family and friends. All of this kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to think about how I was doing. Then one day, caregiver depression set in.

Different Kinds of Depression

I’d felt the weight of depression a couple of times prior to that. Once was what they call “situational depression.” I was going through a massive life change which included financial insecurity and not knowing what the future held, or even where I would live. I also experienced postpartum depression after the birth of my second daughter,  She had some undiagnosed health problems which caused her to cry non-stop unless she was nursing. This lasted for more than a year. During that time I got very little sleep and became exhausted. Finally, when she was 2, she had a surgery which changed everything.

Recognizing the Problem

So, when I began to experience symptoms of depression, several months into my husband’s cancer battle, I recognized them immediately. It felt like a combination of situational depression (after all my husband did have cancer), and exhaustion and hopelessness, much like I felt during my daughter’s first couple years of life. This was made worse by the serious, life-threatening illness of another family member. The pressure I felt was unbearable. Many days I was afraid to get out of bed, for fear of what would happen that day.

Seeking help

I felt a desperation along with the depression. I tried to seek help from our cancer center. I wanted to talk to someone specifically about the stress related to my husband’s cancer. In my situation, I didn’t need medication, but I did need some serious support. I needed to talk to someone outside of the situation. At the time, the cancer center didn’t have anyone who worked with caregivers. They gave me the phone numbers of some recommended therapists, but none of them were accepting new patients.

depression

A Therapist in Clinic

After a few weeks of limping through, I made an appointment with a therapist at a nearby in-network clinic. There was a 3-week wait for the soonest opening. By the time the day of the appointment arrived, I’d already applied some emotional band-aids and no longer felt the level of stress I had felt when I made the appointment. I tried to see the therapist monthly, but we just didn’t “click.”

So, What Helped?

To be honest, my husband’s health improving, and our family member’s health stabilizing, were the 2 things that helped the most. The pressure was alleviated. That’s not very encouraging news. What is encouraging is that I learned some things since then to help prevent full-blown depression in the future.

Other Caregivers

I found a group of cancer caregivers called Jack’s Caregiver Coalition that meets monthly to talk about what’s happening in their lives. Because it’s just for caregivers, we can be completely open and honest. We can talk about the thing that’s most pressing on our minds, or we can just listen. There’s something encouraging about knowing there are people out there that get what you’re going through. Even better, you can encourage someone else.

Support

I have a couple of people in my life who I can get together with to talk and to pray with. These are people who go the extra mile and want to be there to help if I start to sink under the pressure of it all. It’s important to think about who you can count on during this time to support your needs. Often people are there for the patient but don’t realize the extent of what caregivers go through. Finding a few friends who are there for you is important.

Balancing Your Schedule

I have things on my schedule that get me out of the house when I need a break. I’ve also learned that sometimes you need to drop all obligations, even if they are things you enjoy doing. Finding the balance between the two is important. Sometimes it may take a bit of trial and error. You are the only person who knows where you need to be on the scale. I tend to become easily overwhelmed under pressure. So, I do better when I don’t have actual obligations and yet have the ability to take a break and go out for coffee when the opportunity arises. When my husband is sick, I don’t feel comfortable leaving him. Some people need to get out to just breathe a while. We are all wired differently. This is when you need to advocate for yourself.

Find professional help BEFORE you need it

Waiting until you feel desperate isn’t a good idea. You may need to try a few therapists before you find one you feel comfortable with. Shop around. Let the therapist know what you are dealing with. Find out how hard it is to get a last minute appointment if something comes up and you need to talk to someone right away. If they don’t seem like a good fit, ask for a recommendation. They are professional and won’t take it personally. They may know of someone who is just right for you.

Clinical depression

If you are dealing with clinical depression that won’t get better with time and talk, you may need medication. In the past, stigma was attached to mental illness and its treatment. Mental illness isn’t a moral issue. It’s a health issue. Just like people with diabetes need medication, people suffering from depression or any other mental illness shouldn’t feel ashamed of seeking the treatment they so urgently need.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-04 07:00:04.


Critical Family Members

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is C for Critical Family Members.

I am fortunate to have a close family who is very supportive, but critical family members are a common source of stress for caregivers.

Critical Family Members

As a caregiver, you are likely stressed and at times feel underappreciated and unsupported. You may also be dealing with caregiver guilt. Having critical, family members can be especially difficult. What can you do when someone disrespects, discounts or just plain aggravates you?

Don’t respond immediately

Your gut reaction will likely only add fuel to the fire. Instead, consider what was said. Was there any truth to it? Often the most hurtful things have an ounce of truth in them. Check your pride at the door.

Then, consider the source. It’s often nothing personal. They might be insecure, so they criticize others as a way of feeling better about themselves. Does these critical family members have a reputation as someone who loves a quarrel? Do they start an argument with everyone? Then that’s just his or her way. So, even though it’s irritating, don’t take it to heart. Think about the fact that they are probably pretty lonely since people avoid them. That will help you see them in a more sympathetic light.

The Direct Approach

Rather than waiting for things to get even more uncomfortable, talk to critical family members about their concerns. This is best done privately so that they don’t get defensive and/or put a false face on things. It’s important to approach this from a place of empathy, rather than confrontation. Make it your goal to find out what their concern is. Think about what they must be going through in this cancer journey, as well. Hopefully, you will be able to share your feelings with them, too. Who knows, you may just walk away from the table as friends.

Listen with EmpathyCritical Family Members

This is especially important to do if the criticism is delivered in a respectful way. No one is perfect, including you. Maybe you can learn something by hearing your family members out. Perhaps you will gain new insight into what they are going through. This will require empathy. Consider the fact that most criticism is born out of fear. What does this family member fear? Even if your mother-in-law is difficult to deal with, in general, her son’s cancer diagnosis might make her act more critical or hostile. She might be afraid of losing her son and of being pushed out of the remaining time he has left as well as the decision-making process. There may not even be any basis for these feelings, but they are still very real to her. By becoming more understanding of these things, you may not change the behavior of the family member, but you can reduce the negative impact it has on you. You can begin to be more sensitive to the things family members are feeling at this time.

What if they don’t sound respectful?

Then, it’s important to hear the words that they are saying? We often become very sensitive to the way people say things. Sometimes we come to expect that someone is critical of us when they aren’t. Try giving someone the benefit of the doubt by listening to the words they say rather than for any underlying tone. “Tone” is highly subjective and easily misinterpreted. The next time you think your cousin is being sarcastic when she says, “I love your new curtains,” say, “Thank you,” with a smile and leave it at that. This becomes even more important when it comes to matters of caregiving. You may need to politely respond while trying your best not to let things escalate. Let comments made by critical family members run off of you without sticking like water off a duck’s back. Life is too short to stew in the stuff others toss at you. It’s not worth it. Still, there is no denying that words can really hurt.

Walk away

When all else fails, avoid critical family members. This is especially easy to pull off when you are at a large gathering, but not so easy when they start calling, or worse—start calling everyone else to try to turn them against you. If you haven’t already, this is the point at which it is imperative that the patient speaks their mind. There should be no doubt in family members’ minds as to the patient’s approval of the way you are doing as his or her caregiver. The sooner it is cleared up the better. If the patient becomes too ill to deal with this, you are on your own. That’s not a good position to find yourself in.

Note:

Always make sure the patient has a health care directive and has shared its contents with the rest of the family. Make sure it is notarized and on file with the patient’s health care provider in case the patient is ever unable to communicate their needs and there a conflict over medical decisions. At that point, if you are the proxy, it will be up to you to ensure your loved one’s wishes are honored.

It’s stressful when a loved one has cancer. It’s common for family members to at times disagree with one another. Thankfully, it rarely becomes a serious issue that can’t be worked out by sitting down for a heart to heart.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-03 07:00:12.


Boundaries

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is B is for Boundaries & Caregiving.

Sometimes as a caregiver, you can get so focused on taking care of your loved one that the boundaries between you and the patient can get blurred. Setting boundaries in your caregiving relationship can ease both caregiver burnout as well as the guilt that both the caregiver and patient often feel as a result.

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Former First Lady, and caregiver advocate, Rosalynn Carter

Blurred boundary lines can manifest themselves in many ways:

You might find it difficult to make decisions.Boundaries

You don’t want to hurt your loved one’s feelings. Maybe you’re even worried about how others will perceive the way you are handling things. You can hear the whispers already, “Can you believe she is still going bowling once a week while her husband is going through cancer?” But, when you are able to set clear boundaries, you don’t worry about the whispers, because you know that you’ve made the right decision for yourself. Your bowling night might be the one thing that keeps you from losing it during the most stressful time of your life.

You feel exhausted when you don’t have clear boundaries.

Whether this is in other relationships such as work and church, or in your relationship with the loved one you are caring for, boundaries help to bring a sense of peace and order to your life. All of the things you agree to do eventually will wear you out. Even if you were able to take on the same schedule before you became a caregiver, it’s much more difficult to maintain when you are also living with the emotional strain cancer puts on patients, their families, and their caregivers.

You’re just trying to be helpful.

Maybe you’re just doing what you’ve always done (before you became a caregiver). Some caregivers find serving others to be therapeutic. It takes their mind off of their worries and gives them something to feel in control of. Even if you fall into this category of people, keep in mind that you can get too much of a good thing. Use caution when agreeing or volunteering to do things, especially if they are things that require a long-term commitment.

It’s common for your role as a caregiver to change over time. It may become more intense and time-consuming, requiring you to cut back on the things you’ve always done in the past. Letting go of those things, especially things you really love doing, is hard. Remind yourself that this isn’t permanent. At some point, you will be able to say “yes,” again to responsibilities you enjoy, outside of your caregiving role.

For now, it’s a good idea to allow yourself an “out.” Say, “I would love to help, but there is the possibility that my caregiving responsibilities will interfere with this at some point. This lets the people in your life know that at some point you may need to pull out of a commitment.

Sometimes this lack of boundaries develops out of habit.

You start saying yes. More “opportunities” arise, and before you know it, your calendar is ready to fall off of the fridge, it’s so heavy with ink.

Some people lack the assertiveness it takes to say, “no.” Have you ever had someone ask you to can do something for them, and because you are afraid of letting them down, you agree, even though you really don’t want to? It can happen to anyone, but if it happens too often, it can contribute to burnout. As a caregiver, you already have a lot of responsibilities.

Blurry boundaries create chaos, which isn’t good for anyone. That chaos can show up in your schedule and in your relationships. You may wonder where your boundaries are (or even if you should have them at all). When you add too much to your list of things to do, you are bound to drop the ball at some point. This can lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety. Even worse, you can end up resenting the people you are serving, including the patient you are caring for.  By setting clear boundaries, everyone knows where they stand and what they can and shouldn’t expect of you. This includes you!

Boundaries

Sometimes patients expect more than what is reasonable and healthy.

Being ill can cause a patient to feel afraid and alone. It’s natural for them to rely on you, heavily to help them through these times. Sometimes this can become unhealthy. They may make you feel guilty for going out with friends or having another commitment that keeps you from doing what they would like you to do for them. The longer you allow this to continue, the more difficult it will be for them to understand that they are being unreasonable.

“You’ve always spent Friday nights with me in the past.

Why do you need to go to your quilting group now?”

As a caregiver, you’re already one demand away from burnout. Trying to live up to the expectations of a patient without boundaries can slide a caregiver over the edge. Even if it’s difficult at first, your loved one will eventually understand and get accustomed to your boundaries.

Do you as a caregiver demand too much from yourself?

With these responsibilities, you might feel like you fall short of your own expectations. This not only contributes to caregiver guilt but patient guilt, as well. Most patients can see when you are neglecting other relationships and responsibilities in favor of caring for them. They’re also aware of how tired you are and the effects it is having on your overall health.

Boundaries are an expression of respect.

Boundaries help you and the person you are caring for determine what your role and responsibilities are. Sometimes caregivers are the ones crossing the boundaries of their loved one. They might hover, “mothering” their loved one. It’s easy to see why this happens, especially when a patient is lax in their self-care. Unfortunately, this can leave a patient feeling more like a child than an adult, capable of making decisions for themselves. Worse yet, they may feel disrespected. Often the patient was once the provider and a source of strength in the family. Now, they’re in the most vulnerable position they have ever been in. They have lost control over so many things in their lives. A caregiver who unintentionally crosses a patient’s boundaries only exacerbates this feeling.

Many patients say they feel like a burden to their loved ones.

By allowing yourself to do other things you enjoy, apart from your normal caregiving routine, you not only refresh yourself but reassure the patient that your life isn’t consumed by taking care of them. You can also reassure them directly when you encourage family members to talk about feelings. Be committed to honesty when you talk together. This shows your loved one respect. It says, “I trust that you can handle the truth. You deserve the truth.” Setting boundaries benefit both patients and caregivers.

Boundaries and Respite Time

These boundaries should include setting aside time for yourself to refresh and nurture the other relationships in your life. Sometimes this can cause some anxiety on the part of both the patient and the caregiver, especially if the level of caregiving is intense. They may worry about how they will get along when you aren’t there. If their concern is merited, have a friend or family member come to spend some time with them so they can feel safe while you have some time to yourself to relax.

When a Patient’s Cancer is Terminal

Boundaries can be especially difficult to establish and maintain if the patient has a terminal illness. The caregiver may think, “What if Mom dies tonight while I’m on a date with my girlfriend?” Kelly Grosklags, who specializes in oncology-related counseling says about this, “people die when they are ready. Don’t feel guilty if you do happen to miss the death, itself. You have to make decisions, in the moment, with the information you have at the time. You have to say no in order to say yes.”

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.” –Vincent Van Gough

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-02 07:00:45.


Anger and Grief

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is A is for Anger & the Grief Process.

When someone you love has cancer…

You grieve. Anger is very often one of the early manifestations of that grief.You may think of grief with the death of a loved one, but grief is a response to loss. This could be the loss of your health, your job, a relationship, or a lifelong dream.

For patients, caregivers and family members, grieving begins the moment you realize that you or a loved one has cancer. There is a big shift in the story you pictured for yourself. The outcome may not look anything like you had hoped or imagined. Even if your cancer isn’t terminal, there is a lot to grieve when you or someone you love has cancer. It often brings a laundry list of losses with it.

Common losses:

  • Time: Sometimes a caregiver has to devote all of their time to caring for the patient.
  • Anticipated Grief: As you are caring for your loved one, you’re acutely aware that you may lose them.
  • Activities: A health crisis can mean no longer living as you once did. This is true for caregivers as much as for patients.
  • Lost Dreams: After a cancer diagnosis, life no longer looks like the one you had planned. It will never be the same again.
  • That, in itself, is a tremendous loss.
  • Finances: Often the patient and/or the caregiver have to stop working. This loss of income means fewer opportunities and
  • more financial stress.
  • Stability: Each family member is experiencing grief in their own way. While the patient is usually shielded from this, caregivers frequently have to help everyone manage this experience.

What’s behind the Anger?

Anger is one of the most common reactions to intense stress, such as the kind experienced in the face of a serious illness. It helps to consider what is behind this emotions and how to express it in a healthier way.
Feeling angry is a normal reaction to cancer. It feels unfair. People get angry when something is unfair. You may even be angry with the person who is sick. This can lead to feelings of guilt. Often, anger is covering up deep-seated sadness. Talk with someone about the things you feel cancer has taken from you and your family. Sharing these things with someone else can be an act of empowerment.

Grief and AngerIt’s Okay to Feel Angry

It is a valid response during the grieving process. Feeling anger doesn’t make you a bad daughter, husband, sister, etc. or that you’re not coping well. It makes you human. Unfortunately, the expression of anger can often be destructive with shouting, cruel words, or even physical violence. Most people lose any feeling of security and safety when someone is showing out-of-control anger.

Express your feelings rather than act them out.

Yet, it’s important to fight the instinct to stifle your feelings. They need to be recognized. Not only is hiding your feelings exhausting, but it also sends a signal to your family members that they should do the same thing. That’s why it is important to express these feelings in a constructive, healthy way. It’s important that you don’t take these feelings out on the people around you. They are hurting too.

How to release your anger

Find healthy ways to release the anger. This could be something physical, like walking or some other sport. It could be something symbolic, like writing down the things about cancer that make you angry and then burning the list (in a safe, controlled way). Immerse yourself in a hobby. Pray.

You can be angry without falling apart.

These feelings won’t last long. There are many other emotions you will experience as you grieve. They are all ways of fine-tuning your feelings. Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones and you will get through this a stronger person in the end.

Resources

I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-04-01 07:00:33.


caregiving

This April I will be participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Every day (except the 2nd -5th Sundays) bloggers post to their blogs something that pertains to a specific theme (usually) as well as the letter of the alphabet assigned to that day. Today is the day when participants reveal their chosen theme, or if they are going to go themeless. Since I am deep in the trenches of caregiving, this year Facing Cancer with Grace’s theme is…

Caregiving

Five years ago, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. His doctors didn’t expect him to survive very long. I was a new caregiver, unsure of how to approach this new role. Since then, I’ve learned that caregiving is hard. That might seem obvious, but people who’ve never walked in the shoes of a caregiver often don’t realize that we’re on the journey, too.

How do we balance the emotional needs of the patient, other family members, kids, and perfect strangers who insert themselves into our lives?  How do we take care of our own needs when the needs of the loved one we are caring for seem so pressing?

I’ve been on this caregiving journey for over 5 years, and I’m still no expert at this. But I have learned a few things and I hope to encourage you.

A to Z in 2 Places!

I’m doing double duty this year during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be doing the challenge here at Facing Cancer with Grace, and also at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list.

To give you a preview of some of the posts I have (and will have) written, I am posting the schedule. These links will go live when the post is up at 7 AM CST on the following dates:

April    Title/Topic

1              A – Anger & the Grief Process

2              B – Boundaries & Caregiving

3              C – Critical Family Members

4              D – Depression in Caregivers

5              E – Exercise Lowers Stress

6              F – Funeral Home – First Visit

7              G – Guilt Caregivers Feel

8              No Post

9              H – Honesty: Your Authentic Response

10             I – Ideal You vs. Real You

11             J – Joyful Despite Cancer

12             K – How Kids Understand Death

13             L – Living With Cancer

14             M – Memories & Terminal Cancer

15             No Post

16             N – No: The Power of Saying No

17             O – Snake Oil Salesmen

18             P – Plan B: A Change in Plans

19             Q – Quality of Life

20             R – Relax: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

21             S – Sleep Problems When You’re a Caregiver

22             No Post

23             T – Time Management & Cancer

24             U – Unrealistic Expectations & Parental Guilt

25             V – Video of Tagrisso and Our Story

26             W – 6 Nuggets of Caregiving Wisdom

27             X – The Daily Examen (Not technically an X word, but close enough)

28             Y – Young Adult Caregivers Ages 18-26

29             No Post

30             Z – Zero in on Self-Care

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

Originally posted 2018-03-19 07:00:25.


a shift in perspective

Today we’ll continue to look at resilience and how when things get hard, we can bounce. We will look at 4 ways a shift in perspective can make a big difference in our lives as we face cancer (whether our own, or cancer in the life of a loved one).

Avoid seeing crises

A shift in perspective doesn’t mean going into denial or sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich (which by the way, they don’t actually do). It just means that you reserve crisis mode for a real crisis, rather than situations that might someday turn into a crisis.

Some people are natural worry warts. They do what a former pastor of ours called horriblizing. They find the drama in every situation and amplify it as much as possible. They don’t realize they are doing it, but it only makes things worse. There is so much that we can’t control. A shift in perspective is about taking what you can control, what you choose to focus on, and reining it in.

I’m not minimizing the worry that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. There’s plenty to be concerned about. Every test and scan can have you on the edge of your seat. But don’t dig your own grave yet. Even the prognosis your doctor gives you is only an estimate based on statistics. While they are good at their jobs, doctors don’t have crystal balls.

Our Story

My husband was given a prognosis of 6-9 months (of course we heard the worst—6 months). They couldn’t have guessed that he would have a mutation which researchers were beginning to understand and for which they were formulating new treatments. Six years later, he is still doing relatively well.

Focus on solutions

At the beginning of our journey, I felt like our world was falling apart. I was afraid to make plans and every decision filled me with anxiety. A pastor we knew gave me some good advice. He told me to focus on what I have rather than what I could lose. That shift in perspective made a tremendous difference. There were still times when I worried, but I was more in control of those fears, rather than letting them control me.

Making decisions based on fear is never a wise thing to do. Once you have a shift in perspective you can make a decision, based on the reality you are experiencing in the here and now. This is especially helpful when you are making treatment decisions.

Our shift in Perspective

In 2015, Dan had his first metastasis to the brain. That was particularly scary. Most people can imagine living without a limb or even losing one of their senses, but when it comes to the brain, it’s a whole other matter. We see our brain function as who we are as a person, rather than part of who we are. Our brains control our intellect, our creativity, our moods, even our personality. So when something threatens to affect our brain, we get worried.

I heard horror stories about the effect of radiation on the brain. When we spoke to the radiologist, he put our minds at ease in an unusual way. He told us that the effects of radiation on the brain usually aren’t seen until a year or two later, and the truth of the matter was that Dan likely wouldn’t live long enough to experience those effects if they did happen.  That might not sound reassuring, but it gave us a shift in perspective. We would worry about today’s problems today and leave those belonging to tomorrow, alone, until we get to tomorrow. It turns out, his brain is still doing well, 14 mets (and radiation treatments for the mets) later.

a shift in perspective

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness” seems to be the new buzz word in health and wellness circles. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a shallow concept. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment. When you are present in the moment, you don’t horriblize. Your mind doesn’t race to every potential pitfall. Instead, you say, “right now…”

  • “Right now…things we are okay.”
  • “Right now… insurance is covering these treatments.”
  • “Right now…the cancer is stable.”
  • “Right now…we are able to make our house payments.”
  • “Right now… we can make memories.”

Sometimes you may have to search to find a positive “right now” statement, but there will be something that you can focus on.

Breathing for a shift in perspective

Have you ever noticed that when you get tense, you stop breathing? Sure, you take in enough air to survive, but by concentrating on how you breathe, you can actually thrive. Check out a post I wrote about progressive muscle relaxation. It’s an easy technique that can help give you a shift in perspective. It will relax you and allow you to breathe, lowering your heart rate and improving your ability to focus.

I have also written a post on a breathing technique. This is something you can do anywhere, at any time. The post was originally intended for people with breathing problems related to cancer affecting their lungs, but it is helpful for healthy people, as well.

As you practice either of these techniques consider a positive “right now” statement that you can focus on.  At first, this will be something you have to be intentional about doing. Eventually, this will become a reflex.

Spinout

My 16-year-old and I were recently talking about driving on Minnesota roads in the winter. She had recently hit a patch of ice and spun out. She was able to completely relax when it happened. This is the best thing to do to minimize injury in case of an impact.

The same thing is true when stress impacts our lives. We will be much better off if we have a shift in perspective and make our next move when we are relaxed, rather than out of a tense, reflexive state of mind. Our decisions will be better and we will be more open to living well in the present moment.

What Are Your Thoughts?

What helps you make a shift in perspective? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

Now Available!!

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker


cancer survivorship tip

When people hear that my husband has survived for 6 years with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer they often ask me what our top cancer survivorship tip would be. So in honor of his 6th cancerversary, I have put together some of the best advice we have used and continue to use.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #1

Get Educated

I don’t mean that you should read articles filled with pseudoscience. You should find out exactly what kind of cancer you have and what the newest and older treatments for this cancer are. How can you expect this cancer to affect your life in the near future? One of your best resources will be your oncology team. That brings us to the next tip…

Cancer Survivorship Tip #2

Build a Trusting Relationship with your Oncology Team

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your appointments are a time to check in with your doctor and to get any unanswered questions addressed. It’s helpful to write down these questions in advance. When you see your doctor, fire away. He or she will be glad to know what’s been happening with you since your last visit. As you doctor answers your questions, write down what he or she says. It’s easy to forget if it’s not written down. Better yet, bring your caregiver along so they can write everything down. Two sets of ears are better than one.

Also, be honest and open about medications you are taking (including over the counter meds like Tylenol or antacid) and symptoms you may be experiencing. Those details can have a big impact on your treatment. Some cancer treatments don’t work properly if you are also taking antacids, but your doctor can give you a special antacid that is safe to take with your treatment. Some symptoms are important indicators of whether or not you are getting too much treatment or that the treatment isn’t working and it’s time to change to something new.

Oncology Care Teams

Cancer Survivorship Tip #3

Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion

This is especially true if you don’t trust your oncologist for some reason.  Check in with another clinic and see what they have to offer.Atn the beginning of my husband’s cancer journey, he visited the Mayo Clinic for a 2nd opinion. They told him he was already getting top notch treatment. This helped him feel more secure about the plan his oncologist had put together for him. Later on, when his oncologist ran out of options, she sent him back to the Mayo Clinic to be enrolled in a clinical trial. This opened up a new avenue of treatments to try. There is no room for ego in cancer treatment.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #4

Ask about Genome Testing[1]

Checking for genetic mutations can help your doctor find targeted treatments for your specific cancer. These treatments are often more easily tolerated than traditional chemotherapy. Many are available in oral form, making them easier to take. By trying a treatment specially targeted for your mutation, you increase the likelihood of it working. That’s a win-win!

Also, get retested after a couple of years. This area of oncology is a rapidly changing one. New mutations are being discovered all the time, and with them, new targeted treatments are being developed.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #5

Don’t shun older treatments

Sometimes patients get discouraged when their only available option is an older, traditional chemotherapy. No doubt, this is a tough pill to swallow (or more accurately, a tough infusion to take), but this can also be the treatment that gives you extra time. That extra time might mean a new treatment becomes available. That’s what happened three years ago when my Tagrisso came on the market. The time a traditional chemotherapy gives you might also mean that a trial becomes available. That’s what happened recently for my husband. And even if neither of those happens, a traditional chemotherapy is often the ideal treatment option for a cancer patient. It could bring you into remission or treat your cancer altogether. Your doctor will be able to give tell you what to expect.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #6

Have a good support system in place—and use it.

This could include a primary caregiver, family, friends, online cancer support communities, your oncology care team, your faith community, long-distance support, and neighbors. A communication tool like CaringBridge is an ideal way to tell your loved ones what’s happening with you.[2] You can help coordinate help via the planner. You can schedule more than just meals with it. Consider using the planner to ask for help with errands and rides to the doctor as well. It is as useful as you allow it to be.  Family and friends wish more than anything that they could cure your cancer. Since they can’t, let them do the next best thing by allowing them to help you and your family out during this difficult time.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #7

It’s okay to change direction in your journey

We often hear the message that you have to stay strong and fight. Sometimes, the thing that requires the greatest amount of strength is knowing when it’s time to take the gloves off. This is not a failure. This is another part of your journey. It is a time of inner healing and relational healing as you pull your loved ones close and say the things that are often left unsaid until the end of a life. In the United States, we are so focused on how to live well. One thing we don’t teach in our society is how to die well. There is an art to it. It takes a community. Only you know when it’s time to transition from one leg of the journey to the next. Hospice is the ideal way to make this transition. It’s a team approach to end of life care. It isn’t just for the last week of your life. Anyone with a life expectancy of 6 months or less qualifies for hospice care. It has been proven that patients on hospice actually live longer, more comfortable lives than their non-hospice counterparts.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #8

Pray

Our family prays, not just for our situation, but for other families we know or hear of who are going through this same thing. If you have a faith life, I highly recommend praying. I’m not the only one. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. My 1st rheumatologist was an amazing doctor. He was a devout Muslim who ended up going back to his home in Pakistan. Before he left he gave me a parting piece of advice. “You believe in God? Pray. I truly believe that prayer will help you. It will center you and give you greater peace. This will help to reduce pain.” That was non-denominational advice from a highly respected rheumatologist. To get through this cancer journey, we have prayed and continue to do so.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #9

Your Journey is Unique

No two cancers are alike. No two lives are alike. Because of this, it’s important that you don’t chase after fad cure-alls. Instead, get really grounded. Gather your tools, your support system, and your knowledge. Decide what you can do today. Tomorrow things may change, but today, there’s one thing you can do. Maybe it’s some information you need to read up on from your doctor, or setting up your CaringBridge.  Perhaps you have to look into help to get your kids through this. Whatever it is, just take it a step at a time.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSONThe Erickson Family

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

[1] Not all patients have mutations with treatments available, but it is worth asking about.

[2] There are other sites available, but after trying several, I have found CaringBridge to be the easiest to use and the one my support system used the most. Feel free to use whatever site works for you and your family.

Originally posted 2018-10-22 07:00:21.


Supportive Connections

What is resilience? It’s our ability to bounce when we come up against something tough, like cancer. Will we bounce like a rubber ball, or like a tomato? I learned a lot about resilience at the 2018 Breath of Hope Lung Foundation’s Lung Cancer Summit. Perhaps my greatest takeaways came from a talk delivered by Dr. Jeffery Kendall. PsyD, LP.[1] Dr. Kendall delivered a keynote address entitled, Resilience and Hope for Survivors & Caregivers. In the next few weeks, I am going to share a few of the things I learned from this inspiring message. I’ll start today by touching on the first key ingredient to a resilient life: supportive connections.

The impact of supportive connections on cancer survivors and caregivers can’t be overlooked. Yet cancer, itself, directly affects relationships for people facing cancer—often negatively. During treatment, the roles within the patient’s family unit are often changed. Often survivors no longer feel connected to the people they once worked and spent leisure time with. These people may treat the patient and/or caregiver differently than they did prior to cancer.

Early on, someone told my husband and me that, “When you have cancer, you will be surprised by the people who you thought would be there for you, but suddenly disappear. You will be equally amazed by near strangers who reach out to you and support you in phenomenal ways.”

They were so right!

Good relationships are essential to resilience. Yet, so many people lack the supportive connections they desperately need. One in four people in the UK who are diagnosed with cancer lack support from family and friends during treatment and recovery. This isolation is evident from the very beginning of the patient’s cancer journey. Only one in five men has a loved one present when they hear the words, “It’s cancer,” for the first time, [2]

When everything is going well, it can be easy to live an independent life. We don’t see the need for supportive connections. But when everything goes south, we find ourselves feeling very alone and isolated.

That’s what happened to me. As an introvert, I hadn’t fostered many relationships. The few I had, crumbled when Dan was diagnosed. People didn’t know what to say, so it was easier to say nothing at all. And, I didn’t exactly chase after them. But over the years I’ve made a few friends who are more precious than gold.

Where can you find the supportive connections you need?

Aside from your place of employment and the people you already know, it can be tough to know where to turn for support. Are you involved in any special interest groups, already?

Civic groups and faith-based organizations are great places to find supportive connections. If you belong to one of these, you already share a common bond with these people. Often they have systems in place to support people who are dealing with something difficult. Your church may have a prayer chain; the Lions club might have a group of men who can modify your home to make it disability accessible; the PTA might have some parents who can bring meals on a rotation.

Even if none of these groups have a specific system in place, the ties you form with the people you meet there will enlarge your support system. I am part of a group called TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) I haven’t been able to attend for nearly a year (and my waistline shows it) but the wonderful members of my TOPS group continue to encourage me with cards and phone calls. One of my TOPS friends has provided meals to our family during our worst times.

Taking a Risk

We need to take some responsibility for the state of our social life. If we don’t make the effort to make friends, it’s no one’s fault but our own that we have none. If someone takes the time to talk to you, don’t brush them off. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with them.

It’s a risk, to be sure. It is discouraging when you share the things that are weighing on your heart, only to have someone tell you after 5 minutes of talking that you are doing it all wrong. Everything could be solved—you loved one’s cancer could be cured if you would only do this or that. I’ve had that happen more times than I can count and it does make you gun-shy about sharing with others—even people you have known a long time.

Supportive Connections

Accepting Support

When someone asks you how they can help, what do you say? If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t know what to say. This is especially true when someone offers in an open-ended way.

  • “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.”
  • “Is there anything I can do?”

Often, people make these “anything goes” offers because they really have no idea how to best be there for you. Even though I always recommend that friends come up with some specific ideas for how they could help, most of the world doesn’t read my blog. So, unfortunately, you will have to do some thinking for your supportive connections.

Take a couple days to do this

Do life as it is right now. From the time you wake up until the time you go to bed, really think about all the needs your family has. Write them all down.

  • Are there rides that you need to coordinate to appointment or for your kids?
  • Do you have errands to run? Do you need groceries or prescriptions picked up? Now, you can do your shopping online and have someone just pick the items up.
  • What about meals?
  • Is there a honey-do list with some items that need doing? What needs to be repaired in your house? You don’t want to let these things become a bigger problem later on.
  • Would it help to have one of your supportive connections take the kids for a few hours? This could get them out of the house and get their mind off of what’s happening.
  • Do you need some respite time? You might need to just take a nap or go get a massage.

Once you have all of these ideas written down, share them with your supportive connections on your Caring Bridge or social media site. Keep the list with you so that if someone asks what you need, you have some options for them. They can choose whatever works with their schedule and skill set.

If you can’t come up with an idea of how they can help and they tell you to let them know if you need anything, write their name down. I suggest keeping their name and phone number on a list in your phone so that when a need arises, you can give them a call. One of my friends terms this “calling their bluff.” If they offer, take them up on it.

Next week we will look at how a little perspective can make a big difference!

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

How do you make supportive conections?  I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

Now Available!!

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

[1] Dr. Jeffrey Kendall, PsyD. LP, Director of Oncology Support Services at the University of Minnesota.

[2] Facing the Fight Alone. McMillan Cancer Support, 2013, pp. 1–15, Facing the Fight Alone.


What if

Cancer can often feel like a roll of the dice. The unknown can be the hardest part of cancer and its treatment. This causes patients and their families to often ask, what if. One year into his treatment plan, Dan’s doctor declared that Dan was NED (having no evidence of disease). This is a term used to describe what people think of as a state of remission (in certain types of cancer). It is a wonderful feeling to be NED. Still, because Dan’s cancer was advanced and ultimately terminal, we had been told that it was only temporary and that at some point Dan’s cancer would rear its ugly head again.

What If

One thing that surprised me was how uneasy I felt, even during that time. His scans were now farther apart. Instead of being every 6 weeks, they were every 3 months. What if cancer began to progress just after a scan, and then grew, unchecked, for 3 months? What if? That question plagued me.

We were counting on God to give us the time we needed as a family, and we were counting on people to pray for us, so I also feared that because Dan was doing well, people would forget that we still needed prayer. And, at certain times, like when Dan was about to have a scan, or he just wasn’t feeling quite right, a what if would cross our minds.

  • What has happened since the last scan? What if the cancer has progressed?
  • Will we be able to stay the course, or will we suddenly have to learn about a new treatment? What if that treatment doesn’t work?
  • If there is a new treatment, what will the new side-effects be like? What if the treatment is really hard?
  • What if the treatment involves infusions? Are our schedule and routine going to go through another upheaval?
  • Will there be another option when this one runs out (Because it always stops working at some point)?

Kids worry, too

Our kids worried too. In the back of their minds was their own “what if” list. It was especially bad just before a scan.

While most young children, will be able to quickly move beyond the cancer once treatment is done and you’re feeling better, some children worry more than others and may need continued support.

Teens may avoid talking openly about their fears or concerns. It is often easier for teens to discuss their fears with someone outside the family. You can see if they would like you to coordinate a time for them to talk with an adult they trust or can feel at ease with.

Kids tend to see things just as they are. Once you complete your treatment, life goes back to normal and you begin to look like your “old self” again, they will probably think that the illness is over. You might want to tell your children that everything will be fine, but it’s best to let some time pass before you give them any assurances. Unfortunately, cancer can recur or metastasize (spread to another part of the body).

Dealing with the question What if

 

Dealing with feelings of uncertainty

You should be honest about your feelings of uncertainty—with yourself and with your kids. They may be experiencing some of the same thoughts that you are. Be honest about the fact that if the cancer returns, it will mean more treatment, of some sort.

During this time, you can—and should, be happy. When a treatment is ended, there is plenty to be happy about, and you can share those things together. Maybe you’re looking forward to not feeling nauseous anymore. If you lost your hair due to treatment, you can enjoy seeing it return (maybe even different from before). Enjoy the moment, even if you don’t know what to expect in the future.

Our Story

When you have a “treatable” cancer and you respond to the treatment there is every reason to hope. My husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic, lung cancer. We were told that his cancer was terminal and that we were buying time. Even though it looked hopeless, medically, we had reason to hope. Our hope is in the Lord, Jesus Christ. He has been our strength throughout this journey. I am grateful for that hope. We have had over five amazing years of memories, to date, that we might have otherwise missed.

Dan’s most recent scan shows that his cancer is again progressing. That means starting a difficult course of treatment, again, and worries about whether or not it will work—and for how long. It’s during these times that I remind myself, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34 RSV (1)

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

  1.  from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Originally posted 2018-02-05 07:00:45.

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