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Emotional Support: Why We Need It When Faced With Cancer

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Published on May 18, 2017

Are you kidding me? My daughter has some mystery autoimmune disease, my mother just died after a long struggle with Lewy Body dementia—and I am being told that I have cancer! I simply didn't have the time or the emotional strength to have cancer. I asked my doctor to please rerun the test, as I was sure it was not accurate. Life cannot be that cruel! 

Having a rare blood cancer, and explaining to people what it is—What the heck is a myleoproliferative neoplasm? Polycythemia vera ruba? No, I don't have a tumor that can be removed or destroyed by radiation. I have some strange mutation that I supposedly have had my entire life. Yes, my blood cancer can evolve to a more serious cancer. Some of the few medications to attack MPNs are still under trial. A rare blood cancer—only 100,000 people in the U.S. have this cancer. I had always strived to be a unique individual, but this was going a little too far! 

I am an extreme optimist and my own cheerleader. I am always there to help others find solutions and make things happen. My favorite quote is from the Nike slogan, "Just Do It!" I was fortunate to be referred to a fabulous oncologist-hematologist, so I figured I could "Just Do It" and deal with this medical challenge using the same approach I have used to deal with every challenge in my life. I am strong, I am invincible—you know that song from the '70s. I had so much on my plate, I decided it just wasn't a big deal. 

A few months after being diagnosed, I realized that I was not Super Woman, (or Helen Reddy for that matter). And even though I was the world's leading optimist, I really needed some emotional support to get through this challenge. I needed to have some people there for me when I was confused or unsure about my condition and medicines.  I also needed people there for me to cheer me up when I was dealing with not-so-great results or when I fell prey to the Internet and became convinced my condition would worsen. But I was a little unsure how to ask for emotional support, since I was always the one to provide support to friends and family. I didn't want to burden my two children and scare them when so much was already going on in our family. My husband's father died that January, and my mother died the next month. My daughter was struggling with a mystery autoimmune disease, and we had spent many months consulting with doctors locally and across the country seeking help to get her healed. 

Long story short, I realized what probably every mother in this world has realized about her children: I have two of the sweetest and compassionate children. I met with my children, (Scotty, 22 and Amanda, 20), to let them know that I needed some emotional support—and yes I admitted that super mom was human. I was very proud of their willingness to provide support to me! As I reflected during this past Mother's Day weekend, I thought it would be a great idea to share how my two children are supporting me emotionally through this medical journey. I asked them both to jump into this blog post below and to share their thoughts.

Scotty:  I was dismayed to hear that my mom has cancer. Our family was experiencing quite a few medical challenges at the time, and I just couldn't believe the news. I know that she was quite shocked as well. My mom regularly makes the 128-mile drive to see doctors at USC Norris Cancer Center, and I make sure to take the time after each trip to ask her how these appointments go. We stay in very close contact, as I appreciate staying updated on her health and try to afford her emotional support as I am able to. My mom and I have always been able to joke with each other, so I also make sure to support her with levity, hoping that it will bolster her spirits. My mom always maintains an optimistic attitude, and I remain hopeful that she is able to overcome this affliction.  

Amanda:  I provide emotional support to my mother by asking her how her appointments go. Usually she has great days at the doctor visits and comes home with a smile, but on some occasions she comes home with upsetting news. I always make sure to listen to what she has to say and how she feels about it. I began following a plant-based vegan diet back in May 2016 for ethical, environmental and personal health reasons. I became extremely passionate about following a vegan lifestyle and shared my new-found knowledge with my mom, believing that it would also benefit her. My mother tells me that I have inspired her to go vegan, and she says that since making the change, her blood results are far better than they have ever been in her entire life. My mother always tells me that by looking out for my own personal health, I have provided great emotional support to her, because she is inspired by my actions. 

I cherish my children's compassion and strength to support me through this medical journey! With all of the confusion and worry surrounding cancer, emotional support can sometimes be forgotten. My hope is that other cancer patients, families and caregivers will reach out to their family and friends to help them emotionally deal with their medical challenges. No one should face cancer alone and without the emotional support from friends and family. There is a great deal of scientific data that proves patients experience more success in healing when they feel emotionally supported, and they maintain a positive attitude during a medical crisis.  Emotional support is some of the best medicine! Cancer patients should not think of themselves as a burden to their family and friends. We may be strong people, but that does not mean we don't need emotional support when faced with such a challenge.

The road to wellness is paved with information, support and optimism!

Beth Probert

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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