Emotional support

Some people may have particular concerns – they may be worried about the change in their appearance after surgery and how it will affect their lives and relationships. Younger people may be worried about fertility following treatment (this should be discussed with your specialist). Other people may feel that they are not getting enough personal support to help them deal with their cancer.

It may be helpful to talk about your feelings with your partner, family members, friends or with a cancer nurse, your local Cancer Society, counsellor, social worker, psychologist or your religious/spiritual adviser. You may wish to talk to someone else who has had a similar experience. (Contact your local Cancer Society to talk to someone who's been through a similar experience.)

Sometimes, you may find your friends and family do not know what to say to you: they may have difficulty with their feelings as well. Some people may feel so uncomfortable they avoid you. They may expect you to lead the way and tell them what you need. You may prefer to ask a close family member or friend to talk to other people for you.

Anyone you tell needs time to take it in and to come back with his or her questions and fears – just like you. You can help them to adjust, just as they can help you. But remember that while you are having treatment your needs should come first. If you do not feel like talking, or you cannot cope with any more visitors, say so. If there are practical things they can do to help, let them know. Some friends are better at doing something practical to help than they are at sitting and talking. Everyone is different, and some may find it so difficult that they stop visiting for a while.

"I did a lot of visiting.

I wrote to people; even my father, he didn't write back because that's the way he is." Alofa

Your cancer care team understands the impact of cancer and can help more if you are open and tell them of your emotional and coping concerns. For details of additional support services available, phone the cancer information nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237).

The roles in the family can be affected, such as when family members are unable to work or take responsibility for things they did before or since their diagnosis of cancer. Communication patterns can be disrupted. People may be afraid to say things to each other in the same way as they did before. You might find it helpful to talk to a counsellor or someone else who has been through a similar experience. Contact your local Cancer Society about the Cancer Connect Service (see the section ‘Cancer Society information and supportive care services’ for more information).

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