The diagnosis of breast cancer is an experience that changes the lives of the entire family, bringing an immense amount of stress and many challenging situations, especially if mom is the one diagnosed. Learning the best ways to cope with the situation and how to manage can make a huge difference in how your family responds.
When diagnosed, the shock of cancer is a force all on its own. The first response will be to try and find a cause for the diagnosis, a reason why it’s happening. But cancer does not easily fit into a world of cause and effects. Two siblings can live the exact same life with similar genetics, and only one of them develop cancer. The important thing is to focus on what steps you can take to help now, and keep the focus on the present. Make sure everyone talks openly about how they’re doing and doesn’t try to keep their own struggles to themselves.
During the Treatment phase, everything feels shaken. Chores still need to be done, responsibilities need to be reassigned, rides have to be found, and everyone has to pick up the slack. It’s common to feel stuck between being hopeful and afraid of finding out the outcome of the treatment. As a result, life feels like it’s on hold. Carrying that many burdens can be overwhelming. Just remember, you have people around you that can help carry some of the burdens. Take it one day at a time, one item on the to-do list after another, and don’t be afraid to ask for support from others.
In the Chronic phase, families normally slowly start to return things to normal. A delicate balance has to be found between giving back too many responsibilities too quickly and being overprotective. If it’s too fast, there might be too much work for mom to pick everything back up again. If it happens too gradually, progress might be stifled and unable to happen properly, as a result, feelings of isolation and not being needed begin to crop up. Striking a balance depends a lot on the communication happening. Move at a comfortable pace, and keep checking in to make sure it isn’t overwhelming.
The most successful families are the ones who are task-oriented. They stay focused and unified by making achievable goals and working towards them. Open communication, active cooperation, and steady encouragement are all things that will create a healthier environment. No family can deal with it perfectly, but the more unified they are, the better it will be. It won’t change the diagnosis, but every little bit to make it easier matters.