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Your support team

Enlist the people you love in your fight against cancer.

There’s no time when the love and support of the people you care about is more important than when you have cancer. The team that stands with you — family, friends you’ve known a long time, or those you’ve met more recently — will want to help in any way they can. You can depend on them for emotional support and for help with your day-to-day responsibilities when you need it.

Talk about it

While it may seem hard at first, communicating openly about your experience with those you’re closest to can alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety. After all, your loved ones can only offer their encouragement and support if they know what you’re facing.

As you decide whom to tell and when to tell them, you’ll want to consider whether you’ll ultimately make the conversation about your health harder if you postpone it. At the same time, telling people may produce stresses of its own. It is an emotional subject, and people don’t always know how to react to the news.

Just as many people will surprise you with their generosity and understanding, some people are unable to cope with a friend’s illness and simply withdraw. Others, suddenly faced with their own vulnerability, may find it easier to avoid you than come to terms with reality.

However, most of the time, you’ll be comforted by the support you find when you begin talking to friends and acquaintances about your experiences.

Accepting help

If you’re used to taking care of yourself, you may find it uncomfortable being more dependent on your family or friends than you’ve been in the past. But it’s essential to learn how to accept help. If you find it difficult to do this yourself, have your spouse, partner, or a close relative or friend coordinate among everyone else. Not only does accepting help provide necessary support for you, but it gives the people who care about you a way to encourage you and share the load.

When people offer to help, be specific about the kinds of things that will make your life easier. You can keep a running list or calendar of tasks you need help with. For instance, you might ask friends to:

  • Prepare meals that can be stored in the freezer
  • Pick up kids from school or take them to after-school activities on certain days of the week
  • Do the grocery shopping

Talking to kids

If you have children, it may be difficult to tell them about your illness. But if you hide the truth, they’ll probably figure out that something is wrong. Instead of letting your kids imagine the worst, let them know as much about what’s happening as you think they can handle.

Reassure your children that it’s not their fault, that cancer is not contagious, and that you’re the same person you’ve always been. Try to maintain your children’s regular schedules as much as you can. And make sure they understand that they will be cared for, whatever the outcome. If behavioral problems develop, such as withdrawal or aggression, it’s a good idea to seek professional guidance.

Teenagers sometimes have difficulty showing their feelings, so you might not realize how upset they are. At a time when they’re struggling to be independent, they may be unable to express how frightened they are that you’re sick.

It’s a good idea to ask your teenagers to help out from time to time. They’ll appreciate being asked to take on some adult responsibilities. And they’ll be comforted knowing they’re helping you.