Reactions and needs of those close to you

After your cancer treatment is over, the people around you are also likely to go through strong emotions. What has happened to you might make them question things about their own life and future. Like you, their priorities may change: they may want to focus more on enjoying the important things in life, such as their family and friends. This can be very positive. Your relationships may be stronger and more loving because of it. But you may also find that some of their reactions upset and frustrate you.

"While I was filled with confidence, [my parents] were filled with dread when I came out of it." Mike

When people who are close to you don't understand

Many people with cancer say that people very close to them don't really understand how much help they still need. They might expect you to be back to 'normal' much faster than you feel you can be. It can be hard to let them know this. People with cancer often feel guilty about what their family and friends have been through because of the illness. But don't let this override your needs. Your recovery may take a lot longer than your treatment did. This may come as a shock to both you and your family.

Let your family and friends know that you understand it is hard for them as well. Tell them how much you value all they have already done to help you, but that you still need their support.

"There were some friends who I think backed off and I was disappointed. Some of my friendships that I thought I really valued didn't turn out to be like that. It's not necessarily that they don't care, it's just that, possibly, they don't know what to do or to say." Rosemary

Most people want to help all they can but sometimes they just don't know the best way to do this. They might think that ignoring what has happened and trying to move on quickly is best for everyone. You can't just 'get on with it' and move on as quickly as they might want you to. If you can work together and share your worries then it will be easier for everyone. On the other hand, some family and friends may find it more difficult than you to move on and may benefit from talking to a Cancer Connect volunteer or talking to a counsellor or their GP.

Coping with your children's needs

If you have children, you may not want to let them know that you still don't feel great, even though your treatment is over. They may not have spent much time with you during treatment. It's common for young people to worry that the person with cancer may die. For some children this time may have been very hard and they will be excited about having you 'back in their life'.

Children's reactions and needs will depend on their age. Be as open and honest as possible. Try to involve them in your recovery. With younger children, if you are feeling too tired to play with them, suggest that they lie next to you and read a book. We know from research that exercise helps fatigue so going for a short walk together benefits everyone. With older children you may be able to ask them to help you cook, clean and shop.

Involving your children, where you can, not only makes them feel you want and need them near you, but also allows them to spend more time with you. Pushing them away or trying to hide your feelings and needs only confuses them and makes them feel lost and lonely. Children can sometimes be the 'best medicine'. They can make you laugh and give you reasons to want to cope.

Will my children inherit my cancer?

This can cause a great deal of concern for many people who have had cancer. It is not uncommon for several members of the same family to develop cancer, though in most cases the cancers will be unrelated. For a small number of people, their family history suggests their chance of developing cancer is higher than the average population. If you are worried that your cancer may be inherited, talk with your doctor.

They can advise you about any risk and whether or not your children need regular screening. They will also be able to refer you for genetic counselling and testing.

Genetic Health Service NZ provides diagnostic and counselling services, and has clinics throughout the country. For more information, visit Genetic Health Service NZ's website.

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