Coping With Emotions

When Cancer Makes You Feel Dependent on Everyone

Your loss of independence is another unfortunate side effect of treatment. Communicate with your caregivers and loved ones to maintain a sense of independence after your diagnosis.

Cancer brings with it an array of new challenges and one of the most frustrating is feeling dependent on others. This might be complicated by the fact that you’re used to being in control. Or maybe you’re a young adult, just starting to prove yourself, and then cancer sweeps your feet out from under you and you find yourself back in your childhood bedroom with mom treating you like a kid.

There are many ways that illness undermines your ability to manage your diagnosis. It’s not only frustrating for you but also your loved ones who want to help but can’t comprehend why you get grumpy about needing support.

These Feelings Are Normal

It’s completely normal for cancer to put you in a position where you need help from others. It’s also normal to not like being in that position. It’s easy to get angry about feeling dependent. As Cancer Fighters Thrive describes, the loss of independence may be harder to deal with sometimes than the physical toll of cancer. Whether you ask for it or not, you probably will need help so it’s best not to reject offers of assistance. Remember, your diagnosis is devastating for your caregivers too so they’ll be sad, frustrated, and hoping to help. It’s important to work through this transition together so everyone gets the necessary help.

Communication Is Key

The best way to get past this frustration and get the help you need is to talk it out. Many would rather do anything than engage in an awkward conversation but it’s the best way to preserve some of your independence. You may want to make out a schedule that includes alone time or make an agreement that lays down some caregiving (and patient) guidelines.

Make a plan before you talk. Pinpoint the areas where you’re having difficulty. Is it meal preparation? Keeping the house clean? Childcare? Rides to treatment? Getting in and out of the tub? Nailing down when you do need others around can make it easier to dictate what doesn’t require an extra set of hands.

Free online programs, such as Lotsa Helping Hands, are specifically designed to organize the support a family needs during a health crisis. Using a program like this, or even just a paper notebook, you can create a list of things that need to be done and let people choose which ones they’d like to help out with. You can even designate someone to manage the list for you. That means you get the assistance you absolutely require and can leave some tasks for yourself.

Do You

It’s important to keep your personal hobbies when you have cancer. Once you have your help situation straightened out, find a few things you do in your downtime that you enjoy. That could be reading, knitting yourself a scarf, or learning new recipes. As well, you could look into getting a low-maintenance pet, like a goldfish, so you have a project to take on.

If independence and alone time are important to you, make sure you have activities you don’t share with anyone who lives with or directly cares for you. And remember, communication is the key to making your treatment go as smoothly as possible.

A patient navigator can discuss your concerns with you, and provide access to financial information, support groups, educational programs, nutrition, counseling and other resources that will help address your needs.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley