COPING WITH THE BIG C


Nobody wants to hear that they have the Big C. But it can be beaten, and there are practical ways to help you cope with and overcome it.


Cara Noble is national relationships manager, service delivery of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA). ‘Hearing the words “You have cancer” can be the scariest moment in a person’s life,’ she says. The overwhelming fear and uncertainty is real, and we need to acknowledge these feelings. 

At the same time, it is important to know that cancer can be beaten. It is not a death sentence and many people all over the world are beating it every day. A cancer diagnosis has nothing to do with your age, race, gender or religious beliefs. Cancer is also not contagious. You cannot pass it on to someone when you hug, kiss or use the same toilet or cups and plates.’

IF IT’S YOUR DIAGNOSIS
You are never alone. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind, no matter how isolated or frightened you might feel. And even better news is that you can always be in touch with others in the same position as you. Online support groups mean there’s someone ready to talk to you 24/7. It can be hugely reassuring to chat to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through, and you will form very strong bonds with people from all over the world.

DON'T TRY TO DENY YOUR FEELINGS.
Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you go through. It’s not weak to cry or be afraid; it’s not silly to be angry. All your emotions are valid, and it’s healthy to let them out rather than bottling them up. If you don’t want to burden loved ones, this is another instance in which online support groups can be a huge help.

NEVER BE TOO PROUD TO ASK FOR OR ACCEPT HELP.
This is no time to be timid about your needs. For one thing, everyone needs help sometimes, and at this time you need to let others help and support you, so all your energy can go into strengthening your body.



“Your cancer diagnosis does not define you. You are not a ‘cancer patient’. You are someone whose life is affected by cancer right now.”


For another thing, remember that your loved ones are suffering with you and they want to help – it makes them feel better to be able to do something useful.

ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT YOUR DIAGNOSIS DOES NOT DEFINE YOU.
You are not a ‘cancer patient’. You are someone whose life is affected by cancer right now. Don’t let yourself get so bogged down in the realities of symptoms or treatments that you lose touch with what brings you joy. When you feel down or defeated, do something enjoyable that recharges your battery, whether it’s meditation, listening to music, dancing, playing with your pet, going for a walk, writing a journal or anything else.



GO FOR THERAPY SESSIONS.
They can be enormously helpful in letting you gain a fresh perspective, as well as unburdening yourself of emotions that might feel overwhelming. Talking about your fears or worries gives you power over them instead of the other way round – and you have complete freedom to talk to a therapist about anything and everything, without worrying about upsetting your loved ones with unpleasant thoughts.



LOVED ONE IS DIAGNOSED
Make a nourishing meal on treatment days and generally help out in practical ways, whether with babysitting, bathing or feeding kids, doing grocery shopping or laundry.

Go with your partner/friend to doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions as often as you can. If the details about treatment are confusing, don’t be shy to ask questions if you feel that more information is needed.

Be a listening ear without feeling you need to offer advice. Quiet listening shows caring support as you allow the person to express how they are feeling about body changes (hair loss, fatigue, surgery) and concerns about money, work and family relationships. Be positive without dismissing their very real worries.

Don’t ask probing questions but allow the person to be honest about serious issues when they’re ready to talk about them. Try to keep your relationship as ‘normal’ as possible – be humorous when appropriate but sensitive to the person’s mood.

ASK FOR HELP YOURSELF
Your concern for your loved one might overwhelm you – you can’t be strong all the time. Ask for help from your church or community when you need a break, try to find a support group for caregivers or join Facebook @CANSA Caring for the Caregivers.

4 TIPS FOR COPING WITH CHILDHOOD CANCER
Talk about it. Don’t be scared to use the word ‘cancer’ – it’s better that your child hears it from you than someone else. Also encourage them to ask questions. If you don’t know the answers, say so, and that you will try to find them.

Prepare your child. Explain what the treatment involves and what effects it might have, e.g hair loss, weight loss.

Reassure your child that the doctors and nurses will take good care of them. Children might feel vulnerable because of so many changes, so remember to tell them you love them and are there for them.

To support your child, you need support yourself. Apart from the shock of the diagnosis, you might feel fear or anger, anxiety about treatment or even rejection by community members who don’t know the facts about cancer. Ask about parents’ support groups, and join the CANSA TLC Childhood Cancer Support Group (facebook.com/groups/CANSATLC/).

DIRECTORY
South Africa Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA)
0800 226 622 (toll free)
072 197 9305 (English and Afrikaans);
071 867 3530 (Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and siSwati)
info@cansa.org.za
cansa.org.za

Botswana Cancer Association of Botswana
+267 393 2948 / +276 713 03971
facebook.com/cab41998

Cancer Association of Namibia
+264 61 237 740
help@can.org.na
can.org.na

Lesotho Breast Cancer Network
+266 2662 8329
facebook.com/BreastCancerLesotho/

Swaziland Breast and Cervical Cancer Network
+268 2404 9270
facebook.com/swazilandbreastandcervicalcancernetwork
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COPING WITH THE BIG C COPING WITH THE BIG C Reviewed by Jet Club on November 01, 2019 Rating: 5

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