One of the most devastating bits of news a family can receive is to hear a family member has cancer. Life will change dramatically, whether it affects a parent or a child.
People often feel their life has been turned upside down with family schedules, hopes, and plans completely disrupted. Recognizing that family life can be adjusted successfully is the first step. A smooth adaptation will create an atmosphere that will be the most helpful for healing in this stressful time, and that is the most important thing.
When a parent is the patient, there are a multitude of arrangements to be made. Cancer patients will face a wide variety of situations. Some may be able to continue working, others will need time off to heal from surgery or other treatments before resuming work. Some, on periodic chemotherapy, will have periods of relatively good health interspersed with times of sickness. Nearly all cancer patients must cope with the loss of energy.
A key adjustment is to simplify life wherever possible. Can you streamline household duties? Reassigning chores to other family members is a terrific idea, but can you go a step further and reduce the amount of chores? Perhaps, this is a time to rely a bit more on takeout or more accessible food, paper plates, or settling for less ironing. By reducing the overall load, family members will be free to spend more time with the patient and help them rest and heal.
Less is more
Sometimes this can be done by simply lowering expectations. A home-cooked, gourmet meal is great, but is it necessary? Also, consider postponing major overhauls and remodeling projects to relieve stress and create a peaceful atmosphere.
Value time together
These ideas are important to remember, particularly when a child is the patient. Parents will find themselves spending a great deal of time at the hospital or doctor's office. Streamlining home life is necessary to give parents time to devote to the sick child. Don't forget the other children in the family still need attention, too.
A key component to making these family adjustments is to simplify the schedule. Whenever possible, reduce commitments outside of the home, for both the patient and for the care giving family. Some activities can still be enjoyed, if the patient is up to it, and can be quite welcome and helpful with healing, but be careful to plan these things according to their desire.
Often people find it awkward to accept help offered by neighbors and friends. Not only will it remove some of the burden, but it allows helpers a chance to feel connected and involved with the patient. So often, cancer creates feelings of helplessness. Allowing others to assist with meals, or other forms of service, removes some of that pressure, so say "yes" when you can.
Cancer is scary for both the patient and family, but making a few adjustments will help smooth the journey.