Communication - Lets Fuck Cancer

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A caregiver’s guide to

Communication

Communicating can be challenging on a normal day, but when your loved one has cancer it can open a whole new Pandora’s box. Whether you’re talking to your loved one, friends, or family, you’re on the same team and just like any team, you’re going to laugh, cry, and fight through cancer together.

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Talking to your loved one with cancer

When your loved one has cancer it’s easy to overthink the small stuff. Here’s what we know: The worst thing you can do is treat cancer like the elephant in the room, or worse, treat your loved one like a completely different person. They’re still the person you know and love. So where do you start?

Let them lead

Let your loved one take the lead and set the tone for how and when they want to communicate. They’ll share when they’re ready and if you’re unsure of how to handle things, just ask. Chances are your loved one just wants things to be as normal as possible.

Listen

When your loved one is ready to talk, just listen…but, like, really listen. Make sure you’re responding rather than reacting or trying to fix things. Usually people just want to be heard.

Read the room

Sometimes, sitting in silence with a loved one is the only support they need. Other times, they need someone to laugh, cry, or rant and rave with them.

Act like yourself

You don’t always have to talk about the cancer elephant in the room. Talk about the things you would normally talk about outside of cancer – normal life stuff, like your favorite show or how annoying your boss is.

Be honest

Don’t sugar coat things or avoid tough conversations. Acknowledge what’s hard for both of you, what you’re scared about, and what your limits are.

Be yourself

Even with cancer, your loved one still wants to know about your life, laugh at the same jokes as you, and bond over the same shows. Don’t let cancer disrupt every aspect of your relationship.

What to say when you don’t know what to say

It can feel like you’re walking eggshells when you talk to your loved one with cancer because you don’t want to say the wrong thing. What should you say or not say, how should you say it, and when? Here are a few ideas.

“I’m in this with you. I might not always get it right or know what to do, but I’ve got you.”

“I’m figuring this out as I go too. Let’s be open with each other and work together no matter what.”

“I’m scared too, but I’m here for you and we’re in this together.”

“What are you feeling lately?”

“Is there anything I can do right now to help?”

“What do you think is working right now in our patient/caregiver relationship and what do you think isn’t?”

“Fuck Cancer!”

Communicating your needs

When your loved one has cancer it can be easy to fixate on them and their needs, but pushing aside your feelings and needs is a recipe for disaster. Ignoring yourself won’t help you or your loved one get through this. So how do you support yourself while supporting them?

Find support

Find someone to lean on that you’re comfortable talking to. Whether that’s a friend, family member, or professional, find someone that’s looking out for you.

Be honest

There’s going to be good and bad days. Acknowledge what’s hard, what you’re scared about, and how it’s affecting you.

Ask for help

It’s never been more important to ask for help when you need it. Speak in specifics – if you need help with chores, something in your day-to-day life, or just need a break, tell someone.

Maintain relationships

Try not to isolate yourself or feel guilty about having a life outside of caring for your loved one. Your relationships are important too and they are a lifeline to help you cope with everything that is going on.

How to ask for help

It’s awkward, we get it. But, it’s also critically important. Try these conversation starters when you’re ready.

“Can we talk? I need some support and don’t know where to start.”

“My role as a caregiver is extremely challenging. Can we talk about it?”

“I’ve been struggling recently with how hard this is. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

“I’m having a hard time adjusting to this new normal and I don’t know what to do.”

“I’m feeling disconnected and strained. Can we do a non-cancer related activity together?”

“I really need a break. Do you mind driving the person I care for to their appointment?”

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