WHAT FRIENDS NEED FROM A CANCER PATIENT

February 18, 2010

We know they do not know a lot about cancer, probably their adventure is starting right now, at the same time as ours. They have lots of questions, doubts, fears. They do not know if they will be strong enough to go through this. And if they are not, a lot of people will judge them because they “were not there” when we needed them.

Believe me, we are very lucky to have them with us in this horrible trip, but we do understand if they can not handle, or simply, they do not want to handle it!

We are sick, not them! They have their whole life to plan, and we can not do that, we have to take step by step, not even day by day, because we know everything can change really fast in our condition.

We will be extremely happy if they can stay, if they just watch over us when we are sleeping. If they just cook us a simple soup, or bring us some flowers, or just a card… A phone call from time to time?

Yes, cancer is lonely even if we are surrounded by friends and people who love us. Our friends and family members are worried, afraid and, scared just like us! And the worst: they can not fix what is going on with us, they can not do magic for everything to go away and for life to go back to how it was. Depending of the case, they are also responsible for important decisions about our treatment, our lives. Decision that nobody wants to have to take, not even ourselves!

The other thing that we, as patients, have to understand and accept is that not everybody knows how to deal with all this suffering, pain and transformation. A lot of people just can not give more from themselves and the only option they have is to go away from us.

Cancer is a huge monster that changes our lives from top to bottom. From changing our taste buds to messing with the whole family finances. If we shared the chores in a house, we have to remember that now, our partner, husband/wife, friend, parents, brothers or sisters, are having to take care of everything plus need extra time to take care of us. To drive us to doctors appointments (a lot of never ending appointments!). They will pick up our medication. They will clean, cook, do laundry, feed and walk the dogs, do homework with the kids and, they still try to put a good face on when around us so we do not have to worry about them and we still can use their shoulders for our breakdowns. 

Yeah, I know we need all of our energies to beat the cancer, but we have to give extra value for our caregivers. They need our shoulders too. They need to be reassured at daily basis that everything they are doing for us is just wonderful! 

Give them space and time for a break! To go to the movies with friends or the rest of the family. To go spend the day on the beach just to be able to relax and breath different air! But find someone to stay with you while they are taking this break, other way they will be so worried about us, they will not enjoy their free, and well deserved, time.

Everybody tell to our caregivers: you have to have sometime for your self. Fine, easy to say, but their question is: the world is falling apart on our heads, how the heck one can take time from it?

Like us, they are so lost, scared and overloaded of chores and worries that in the end of the day they just want to sit down and try to relax, or take a good shower and go to bed. But wait! First they need to help us to get ready for bed, bring our medications, wake up every four hours to medicate us and take our temperature. They will also wake up in a jump every time we move or make any sound, or try to go to the bathroom. 

No, after that positive biopsy result, nothing can be like it was before, for us or for them. We have a lot to deal with for the rest of our lives. We have to know our new us because we do not fit in the same skin again. And our caretakers? They are exhausted, feeling empty, lost, trying to keep themselves together, trying to do their best but, and most of all, they are tired to see us suffering.

So, yes, praise whoever did (or is doing) this trip with you. Even if they do not know exactly what is and how we feel because they do not have or had cancer, they are strong and caring people that gave to us everything they could!

And, please, don’t ask for much more! People give us what they know and can. And the same way as us, they just need our love and see that every day we get a little better just because they were there.