Social Concerns and Relationships

Cancer can at first feel solitary

Myeloma Series Part 2 McNutt Seated Donna McNutt, myeloma patient
For patients like Donna McNutt, a cancer diagnosis can at first feel like a solitary experience. It can seem as if your diagnosis is yours alone to cope with, and you might feel like giving up or isolating yourself from others.

But research has shown that social support — staying connected with your loved ones and keeping the lines of communication open with your support network — can make a real difference in helping to cope with the stresses brought on by diagnosis and treatment.

At City of Hope, our integrated, interdisciplinary supportive care cancer programs are designed to provide support to prop up you and your family, no matter what stage you are in your cancer journey — and no matter what challenges come up for you, including:
 

Moving back home after diagnosis

After a cancer diagnosis, adults and young adults who have previously lived on their own sometimes choose to move back into their parent’s home temporarily. Do not think of moving in with your parents as giving up your independence, but as a way to ensure that your emotional, practical and financial needs will continue to be met during this difficult time. Be honest about your need for privacy and share your feelings and emotions with your parents. You may find them to be a strong source of emotional and practical support.
 

Talking to your siblings about having cancer

Watching a brother or sister face a cancer diagnosis is difficult for siblings of any age. They may want to help you in practical ways such as providing transportation to and from treatment or helping with household tasks. Encourage your siblings to talk openly with you. Let them know that they can support you by just taking the time to listen. Spend time together talking about subjects other than cancer.

 

Talking to friends about your diagnosis

Your friends may not have very much experience with cancer, and may not know how to respond. Do not be afraid to take the lead in reaching out to them. Be honest about what you need and what you feel like discussing. If your friends want to help, be specific in your requests such as running errands, providing transportation or preparing meals. Although some friendships may change during this time in your life, focus on friends who are able to listen to you and support you.

 

Dealing with spouses and partners after diagnosis

Most adults and young adults do not expect their spouse or significant other to be diagnosed with cancer. The fear of losing a loved one can be overwhelming. Sometimes this fear can drive an emotional wedge between partners. It is important for each of you to talk openly and honestly about your thoughts, feelings and fears. Remember, you do not need to always talk about cancer. Discussing day-to-day topics can help bring back a sense of normalcy to your lives.

 

Where can you get more information?

For more information about how to address changing relationships and communicating with your loved ones about your experience please read the National Cancer Institute's Taking Time: Support for People with Cancer.