Maryland Bar Center
520 West Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Direct Line: 443-703-3041
Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, CAC
Lawyers Assistance Program Counselor
Direct Line: 443-703-3042
Honorable William G. Simmons
Lawyer Assistance Committee Chair
IN THE THROES OF BATTLE:
Taking Time to Support People with cancer and the People who care about them…
By: Carol P. Waldhauser
Perhaps you have never been diagnosed with cancer, but someone you know has. Perhaps you have suddenly, and without warning, found yourself drawn close to this war through an acquaintance or friend. Alternatively, the disease has drafted a loved one into battle, and you are looking for ways you can offer support.
Fear, anger, and uncertainty are factors you are dealing with and soon your life becomes an emotional roller coaster. Fear of unfamiliar issues you must confront. Anger because you wonder why. Uncertainty because perhaps you have never before encountered something this serious. Doubt that you can be useful and helpful to your friend or loved one.
The biggest single thing that you can do immediately upon learning that someone you love, or a very close friend, has cancer is to establish a positive mind set. If you can do that, the result will be a strong mental framework to contend with the issues brought forth by the disease, itself.
Other tips to assist a love one or friend include, but are not limited to:
- CREATE A TEAMWORK ENVIRONMENT
For the immediate and/or extended family:
- Some in the family are able to absorb the impact of diagnosis sooner than others. This can create clashing needs as some wish to talk and some need to be private and introspective.
- Verbal and nonverbal clues help determine when is a good time to discuss the illness and how each will learn to live with it.
- The person with cancer has to primary right to set the timetable for when he or she is ready to talk. Others can encourage that readiness through their love and continued presence.
- Talking may include expressing anger, fear and inner confusion.
- Emphasizing the uniqueness of each person, positive test results or good response to treatment is true support, both valid and valuable.
- The person with cancer needs family or friends as a constant in a changing world. "I'm here," offers great reserves of support.
- COPING WITHIN THE IMMEDIATE FAMILY CIRCLE
- Cancer is a blow to every family it touches. How it is handled is determined largely by how the family has functioned as a unit in the past.
- Adjusting to role changes can cause great upheavals in the way family members interact.
- Performing too many roles at once endangers anyone's emotional well being and ability to cope. Examine what tasks are necessary and let others slide.
Total commitment to teamwork includes becoming an advocate to seek relevant new information about the disease, about the health insurance, about treatments, about specialists, etc. Learn to shift priorities, refocus your resources and your lifestyle. Remember, make each battle "ours" not "theirs"
(For the close friend diagnosed with cancer)
- Perhaps the single most important thing for a cancer patient is to have a network of friends who will treat him/her as a living, breathing person with a future.
- When a person is dealing with a serious situation in life, he/she usually has a need to talk about it. Remember, asking conveys caring. Not asking conveys indifference (even if you do not mean it to).
So, do not be afraid to ask. You do not need to have correct responses, just the willingness to show you care. If by chance your friend would rather not talk about his/her battle at that time; they will let you know.
- Volunteer your assistance; do not wait to be asked. It is hard enough to need help, have to ask for it is even more difficult.
- Send cards: It tells your friend that he/she is being thought of and is being missed. In other words, send what you would like to receive, if you found yourself in the same boat.
There are two hurting people when one spouse or close friend is seriously ill. Sometimes the healthy spouse or friend is overlooked.
- Let the care giver know that you care about them;
- Find out what would help them most, i.e.: shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc.;
- Give the gift of time; time for the caregiver to recharge their batteries and take care of personal business.
From my own war experience and subsequent study, I learned that cancer can be lonely and no one should try to bear it alone. Consequently, I want to stress how important your role is in an overall cancer-fighting plan. It is your attitude and responsiveness to your spouse and/or friend that has the potential to impact significantly how he/she fares each battle in the war.
The mental condition of the patient and psychological cooperation of the family and the environment play important roles in the restoration of the body. Every patient needs faith, love, hope and encouragement.
If you would like additional information on support for people with cancer and the people who care about them call The Lawyer Assistance Program at 310-685-7878 x3041.