Coping With Emotions

Cancer and Personality Changes: Coping with a New Normal

Living with cancer and personality changes can feel lonely and frustrating. Finding a support group helps you to cope and process.

Surviving cancer is a great accomplishment but isn’t always the end of health concerns for the patient. Often, cancer and personality changes occur together taxing both the mind and body. As a caregiver, it’s exceedingly difficult to watch your loved one act differently than before cancer. While coping with this new normal is trying, consider a few tips on how to make the process easier to navigate.

Join a Support Group

Finding a support group for caregivers is an excellent place to not only learn of resources but also a place to find support for your unique situation. More often than not, hearing “me too” can boost your spirits when you’re feeling lonely or frustrated. You’ll likely find yourself grieving the before-cancer version of your loved one and this is a valid step in your family survival plan. Use your time together to share experiences with your loved one that are frustrating to you or ask for recommendations on how to mourn the loss of the person you once knew while being grateful that person is still alive. This is your time to outline exasperating events in your life or even your thoughts about leaving your loved one, without judgment.

Get to Know Your New Loved One

Personality changes can be devastating or a welcome difference. No matter the case, it’s important to make an effort to get to know this new personality of the person you love. Consider this new version of your loved one as someone that you perhaps have lost contact with. Try heading out for a series of “first dates” to get to know this new personality. Grab coffee, take a walk, or cook dinner together as each of these mundane activities will allow you to get to know new emotional triggers you or your loved one now have. Even if you have known your loved one for decades, this new personality is just that — new. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t like this version right away but do make the effort to get to know this changed personality so you can make it welcome in your life.

Take Time for Yourself

Living with, or caring for, someone with personality changes is emotionally draining. Assure you’re taking time for yourself away from your loved one to guard against caregiver burnout. Without designated respite and rest time, you can quickly become frustrated, angry, and exhausted. Schedule time in your day that is just for you, doing an activity (sleep, included!) that makes you feel refreshed and ready to enter into your caregiver role with intention and love. Go for a run, take a yoga class, try a weekend retreat, or have dinner out with a friend who isn’t close with your loved one.

With the extra complication of personality changes during or after cancer, it’s easy to isolate yourself. Resist the urge to take on this part of your life alone. Ask for help from friends and family members, giving direct requests such as sitting with your loved one while you enjoy time alone or accompanying you and your loved one on a “getting to know the new you” outing to break any tension or uncertainty.

You’re working through a difficult situation so don’t do it alone. This shift is an adjustment but, with some care and diligence, you can all make it through.

This is a trying time that will make you rethink your life with your loved one. A great way to work through these complicated feelings is with counseling or group therapy.

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Haley Burress
Haley Burress