Category Archives: Caregivers


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.


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.

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