Friday, January 28, 2011

Can a Positive Attitude Influence Survival?

While there is no scientific proof that a person’s attitude can guarantee or influence survival, certainly a positive attitude will affect the quality of your life. People who feel positive and hopeful typically are happier than those who feel hopeless.

The problem with the “positive attitude” idea is that you and your family sometimes may translate this into never allowing yourself to feel sad, anxious, or uncertain. If this were to happen, it might mean that you never deal with these feelings, even though they are normal and understandable. Oftentimes, if you don’t acknowledge and deal with these feelings, they interfere with your ability to feel hopeful and positive, and therefore more in control of your life.

The other problem with the “positive attitude” idea is that people who believe this is the total answer in terms of their survival inevitably blame themselves if their disease recurs. I’ve heard people say that if only they had thought more positively or shown more faith or courage then maybe that would have influenced a different outcome. It’s vitally important to note that it is unlikely that recurrence or progression of disease can be attributed to one single factor, and it’s also completely understandable that remaining positive can be a challenge.

We do know from our experience that those who think positively, while still dealing with their natural anxieties about an uncertain future, are often happier people and have a better quality of life. There is no scientific evidence, however, that attitude will influence or guarantee survival. What’s most important is that you do what’s right for you.

Are there any tips or tricks you have used to keep a positive attitude? Are there areas in which you’re struggling and could use advice? Let us know your thoughts.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Season of Change - Family Roles and Responsibilities

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, normal family routines are often disrupted. Whether it’s hospitalization for surgery or multiple appointments for treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, adjusting to the change in routine can be difficult and at times overwhelming - for both the person undergoing treatment as well as family that are involved in the care. Independence and privacy are issues that shift and are not easy to let go of, even when the patient knows they have to let others help them.

Even in the most loving families, it is normal to feel resentment when one member is ill and unable to carry on as usual, especially when the illness or treatment goes for an extended period of time. There are times when patients refuse to give up responsibilities out of their need for independence or concern that they are a burden to their family.

As a rule, you should continue to do as much as you did before your diagnosis for as long as you can if there is no medical reason not to. If decisions need to be made about temporarily shifting responsibilities, the patient should be involved in decisions unless they are unable to participate.

Family members need to realize that it’s common to feel anger or resentment because family life is different than it was before the diagnosis, and that sharing those feeling can be helpful. Whether talking to family, a counselor, or attending a caregiver support group, having a place to direct those feelings can aid in continuing to be supportive and involved. Being angry at cancer isn’t the same as being angry at the person who has cancer, and separating those feelings can be helpful for both the patient as well as the person offering to help care for them.

What has worked in your family? Share your thoughts or concerns.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dealing with Loss

Although many people either complete treatment and survive cancer or experience long-term control of their disease, some do not. Losing a loved one is often a very difficult and overwhelming period in one’s life. The adjustment reactions that one goes through in an attempt to make sense out of what has happened and to them, and, perhaps, find some meaning or balance in their life takes time. It is understood that grief is a part of life, but just as each individual in unique, so is the way each person grieves.

As familiar as we are with our responses to gain and celebration, grief is the opposite side of that coin. Grief is the physical, emotional, and mental response that is felt in various ways. We have all come to realize that the five stages of grief (denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, and acceptance) generally have no particular order, except that denial is almost always first. Denial acts like a filter, allowing information through in limited amounts so that it doesn't feel as overwhelming.

There are numerous reactions to grief, including getting in touch with loss, holding on, letting go, and making new attachments, to name a few. All of these reactions can manifest at any time, and moving in and out of the different stages is fluid rather than linear. It is also important to allow yourself time to grieve and attend to your needs, which can change day to day. While reaching out for support might not be something that is familiar, it is likely that the grief you are experiencing is unfamiliar as well.

Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides individual counseling as well as bereavement groups to those who have suffered a loss and are in need of support. We are here to help.

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Cancer Diagnosis and the Well Partner

A cancer diagnosis can have a profound effect on both the patient and his or her partner. In addition to the worry and concern that is inevitable, the well partner typically has to balance the emotional and practical responsibilities within the family.

One of the changes that might occur once a cancer diagnosis is made includes restructuring the household dynamics, especially when children are involved. There is also the additional challenge of finding a balance among the competing demands of children, a partner, job, and the patient’s own needs. Under the best of circumstances, finding this balance is difficult. When someone is ill, it becomes even harder.

Patience and good communication can be enormously helpful at this time. Some suggestions that the well partner might find useful include:

  • Reflect on your family’s needs and try to identify what are top priorities.
  • Think about organizing a support system.
  • Consider relaxing some standards and expectations.
  • Try not to neglect your own feelings and issues related to situations that arise.
  • Think through your role in your partner’s medical care.
  • Consider what financial and other issues may need your attention.

Some people, even those not used to seeking outside assistance, might find it useful to reach out for help. Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center provides support in various ways. The resource library has literature and information available and there are counselors, support groups, and a case manager who is able to provide support based on the needs of each individual. There's also a caregiver support group that meets on Thursdays at 2 p.m. to give well partners an opportunity to pause and rejuvenate.

What tips have worked for you, either as the patient or the caregiver?

~ Shannon, Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center