Family, Friends, and Relationships

December 11, 2023 – 08:01 am
Keeping a good relationship with family and friends

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A cancer diagnosis affects everyone in your family: your partner, your parents, your siblings, and your children. It also affects your friends. How these relationships change depends on each person’s coping style.

When managing your relationships during this time, don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends for help. This helps the people who care for you feel that they are providing you with valuable support.

What your spouse or partner may be experiencing

Because your partner is a primary source of support, a cancer diagnosis may affect this relationship more than others. Young adults typically do not expect a partner to face a life-threatening illness at such a young age. The diagnosis of cancer may be overwhelming for your partner. Both individuals may experience some of the following feelings:

The effects of cancer vary from couple to couple. Most couples will experience changes in a variety of aspects of their relationship. These can include changes in roles and responsibilities, sexuality, intimacy, parenting, and plans for the future.

For many couples, facing the challenges of cancer together strengthens their relationship. Uncertainty about the future can reinforce a couple's love and commitment. It may allow them to reevaluate their priorities and reinforce the importance of their partnership. In other situations, a cancer diagnosis can strain the relationship. For these reasons, it is important for you and your partner to talk about your concerns and challenges with each other. It may also help to talk with a counselor if cancer is causing stress in your relationship.

How your parents may react

You may feel that your parents become overprotective or try to take charge, even if you haven’t lived with them for many years. They may want to talk to you frequently, ask a lot of questions, or give unsolicited advice. It is natural for your parents to want to protect you and take care of you because that was their role for many years. Your parents are also dealing with their own emotions surrounding your cancer diagnosis, as well as those of your siblings and other family members.

  • Talking with your parents. Although it may be difficult, try to talk openly with your parents about what you're feeling and thinking. Some young adults don't want to share their worries and fears with their parents because they feel guilty about potentially upsetting them. However, sharing your emotions and being clear about what you need allows you and your parents to work together to resolve problems and support each other.
  • How your parents can help. As a young adult, you are trying to become independent and may not feel comfortable relying on your parents. Be honest about your need for independence as you make your own decisions. But, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Your parents likely have more experience than you do in some situations, such as dealing with doctors and insurance companies.
  • Living arrangement options. Although some young adults live at home with their parents, many live in their own home or apartment. If you do not have a spouse, partner, or close friend who can help you at home, there may be times during your treatment when living alone becomes difficult. Consider asking a parent or another close family member to move in temporarily to help you. Some young adults choose to move back into their parents’ home for a while. Moving in with your parents or another family member may feel like you are giving up your independence or like you are unable to take care of yourself. However, by making that move, you are taking initiative to ensure that your physical, emotional, practical, and financial needs are met, and you are giving your family a role in your care.
  • How your siblings may react

    Your siblings’ responses to cancer will depend on several factors:

  • How close you are
  • Their ages, maturity levels, and personalities
  • How far away they live
  • Their coping styles
  • The amount of support you have from others
  • Younger brothers and sisters who are children or teenagers likely will react differently than older siblings. A brother or sister who is close in age to you will more easily relate to the stresses, fears, and concerns that you experience as a young adult with cancer.
  • Talking with your siblings. Talking with your siblings about your cancer diagnosis can help you support each other. In fact, sharing the cancer experience with your brothers and sisters often strengthens the relationships. However, you or your siblings may not know what to say, or they even fear talking with you about cancer, so you may need to guide the conversation.
  • How your siblings can help. Regardless of their ages, your brothers and sisters often want to help, and they can play an important role in supporting you. Here are some practical ways they can help:
  • Keep you company on trips to the hospital or clinic
  • Spend time doing fun things with you—things that take your mind of cancer
  • Visit you at home when you don't feel well enough to go out
  • Source:

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