Living with a cancer patient: Here’s how to be calm and in control after the diagnosis
Cancer as a disease requires tremendous physical and mental strength from the patient and the caregiver. The second article of our five-part series, guides you on how to keep the treatment on track while ensuring the responsibilities and demands on a caregiver do not lead to a burnout.Updated: Mar 08, 2018 08:41 IST
Cancer brings a flurry of lifestyle changes for the patient and his/her family. Following its onset, the next step involves managing the treatment and helping the patient and yourself adjust to the new developments. Handling both these routines is a tremendous task, one that requires comprehensive amount of planning and execution.
This transition which happens once you settle into the disease’s presence is exhaustive to say the least. You go into an overdrive to bring things in order; reach out to as many doctors as possible, check your health insurance plans, double check your savings, recalibrate your holidays from work, seriously believe every ‘cancer cure’ on WhatsApp, listen to every aunt narrating home remedies; the list is endless. Your regular life suddenly turns around with the entry of this disease, without having provided any heads up.
You can read the first article in the Living with a Cancer Patient series here.
Through my experience, I try to highlight some of the major steps that can enable one to inculcate a stronger sense of control of the situation.
1. Trust second opinions, not third, fourth and fifth: Second opinions provide perspective and sometimes, alternative treatment discourses help a patient’s family develop a clear view of the disease. One must approach another experienced oncologist to go through the patient’s case and get his/her input. However, valuing opinion of every available doctor only leads to confusion, not a conclusion. As a caregiver, charting a timely and decisive course of action is vital to tackle the illness. Once the opinions are in, the caregiver can create a plan of action involving the course of treatment, types of medication and costs, among others.
2. Study the side effects to avoid panic: Treatments like radiation and chemotherapy often open up a Pandora’s box of side effects, as the patient’s immune system weakens. Any side effect can create anxiety within the family; hence it is vital to recognise the red flags, but not fall prey to them. Listing down the main side effects, their counter drugs, keeping helpline numbers on speed dial, informing the oncologist of new developments; are all ways to avoid alarming situations. Keeping your cool with prior information on the treatment’s negative outcomes can help you calm the patient too.
3. Manage expectations: Being a caregiver comes with its set of responsibilities and expectations. As an adult, you’re supposed to attend to the patient, their medical needs, be the main point of contact with the hospital, fulfil their administrative requirements, and in the midst of it all, manage your own work and life. The main ways to avoid reaching a burnout through it all, is by acknowledging that you’re doing the best to your ability, prioritise and delegate responsibility, create to-do-lists, and above all, learn from your mistakes and move on.
As a family, we have worked towards ensuring flexibility in our work routines to suit my father’s needs. Holidays are planned to spend quality time with him, and leaves are adjusted to ensure that at least one family member is available for assistance.
Accepting the occurrence of the disease invites a new normalcy in the patient and his/her family’s life. When you mark your calendar with the hospital visits, other tasks automatically revolve around them. As a family, we have worked towards ensuring flexibility in our work routines to suit my father’s needs. Holidays are planned to spend quality time with him, and leaves are adjusted to ensure that at least one family member is available for assistance. This modification has oiled our family’s machinery to run with minimum glitches, and helped us develop a matured outlook of life.
As my father undergoes his chemotherapy rounds, I’ve trialled and erred through managing home and work. However, the experience has helped me prioritise my responsibilities, handle difficult news, remove unnecessary worries from life and cater to my father, all at the same time. Through this journey, I have evolved as a person and in someway, grown as an adult.
The author writes on decoding positivity as her father fights through aggressive oral cancer on mariyamrazahaider.com.
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