Cancer strikes fear in the bravest of us. Perhaps though we don’t have to be so frightened. Many cancers today are curable. And of the ones that are not, frequently a remission can be months or years. One way to know cancer and what it can mean is to walk down that road with someone who is suffering the effects of cancer. Most of the time, we don’t need a generic definition, rather specific definition to a particular type of cancer. Even cancers within the same organ can be different by name and therefore, different by treatment.
If you or someone you know has cancer, the best way to understand and work with your doctors to treat you is to spend all the time you can in researching not only the effects of the disease but the cures and alternative treatments. Being strong in the face of cancer is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. I know how hard it is to make your way through the mountains of information and when you are so tired or sick from the treatments, but I also know how important it is to have all the knowledge you possibly can. Take time to formulate a plan. Have a friend or family member go to the medical appointments with you, to the hospital with you or to diagnostic testing. It is always best to have extra eyes and ears. You and this person should keep one journal of all the important facts and trials as you go on this journey.
As a family member or friend, you would like to help, but what can you do? There are so many ways you can help and be a good friend for them. There are alternative treatments you can help with; funny, funny movies, music and just being present, bring foods that will taste good to both of you, back rubs or leg rubs when muscles ache and keep a positive attitude, are just some. Reading books can be a gage of time for a person who is going through treatment and if they cannot read them, you can read them aloud. This can be more soothing than you will know.
Helping the caregiver when the opportunity comes up. Many times a caregiver is a family member and overwhelmed with the treatments, physical and psychological negative effects of the treatment and taking on all of the responsibilities of a household. This is a very positive place to offer help and one kind of help maybe that of stand-in caregiver while the full-time caregiver takes a much needed break. There are times in this life when just being totally present for someone is all you can do and for that person it is all they want.
When answering questions for the person having cancer, unless you know exactly where they are and what the doctor is treating and what the potential for success is, stay in the noncommittal area of the conversation, and always be truthful. This may seem like a cowardly way to address something so important, but in many cases the wrong information can have drastic results. If you are privileged to have the information and having been in on all the consultations, you may be able to provide some insight in a most positive way. If there is a situation in life which is creating some unfavorable stress in the life of our friend or family member; you could perhaps attempt to help find resolution for them.
We are all fortunate in this time when cures for many cancers are being found or have been found already. This alone should provide so hope and clarity for the family. The best informational tool I could possibly give you is The Survivor’s Guide by M. Feuernstien and P. Findley. This book is written especially for people and families with a cancer diagnosis, speaking to all the questions, concerns and what if’s.
I am certain that each one of us who is faced with a disease which is davestating or chronic, want a positive answer to when will this be cured and done with. I am just as certain that each one of us knows the outcome is 60% on us and 40% on the medical providers. We have to be ready to accept treatments and the loss of control of our life for a small amount of time. We must be willing to admit we need some other person to help us. And we must be willing to actively take part in our cure. All of that being said sometimes there is no answer and we must be able to accept that but not until we have left no stone unturned, no leaf that has not changed color in the fall and certainly no unknown knowledge left on the shelf. Cancer is a disease that truly is the education of higher learning we must crave, perhaps outside of medicine but not outside of human relationships. Cancer teaches us to resolve issues – unresolved for tens of years. Cancer teaches us what life is really about.
This quote (unknown author) expresses the object of the lesson for me: “Life is not measured by the amount of breaths that we take, rather, those moments that take our breath away “.