Colorectal cancer does not just affect the patient, family members and friends also face a host of challenges that come with the diagnosis. How can you better support a loved one facing the challenges of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer?
We look at some ways that you can better manage the diagnosis of a friend or family member with colorectal cancer. In this article, we also ask Dr Ganesh some questions about colorectal cancer. Staying informed can aid you in providing better support for a loved one with colorectal cancer.
Making Decisions Together
A colorectal cancer diagnosis of a loved one comes with emotions such as confusion, anger, anxiety, and sadness. Being informed and understanding your loved one’s diagnosis can help you be of better support.
Your loved one will need to make several big decisions in the near future with regards to their diagnosis. Stay informed and speak to a doctor about what treatments are available and recommended for your loved one. Ask any questions you might have or feel your loved one might have.
Your loved one may be overwhelmed by their diagnosis, by staying informed, you can advise and support them in making decisions about their treatment.
Understanding Your Loved One’s Wishes
However, remember that while your role is to support your loved one and provide advice, you must respect and understand their wishes. This can be difficult to do, especially if their decisions are different from yours.
It helps to remember that you and your loved one may have differing views as to what treatments and procedures will be best for them. Seek to provide them with all the necessary information about their options. However, your main aim should be to support whatever decision they make.
Knowing Your Strengths & Limits
When faced with the question of “how to cope with colorectal cancer?”, it is essential to be aware of your strengths and limits as a caregiver. Through your journey of supporting a loved one with colorectal cancer, you may neglect your own needs and feelings.
To be able to care for a loved one with colorectal cancer, you must ensure your own needs are taken care of as well. You might feel the need to dedicate all of your time to caring for your loved one. However, this can often lead to feelings of exhaustion and being burnt out.
Make a list of the things that you can do to support your loved one through this trying time. However, if there is something you feel unsure about taking on, speak to another friend or family member about helping out. Alternatively, speaking to a doctor, nurse, or counsellor – they can help you decide how best to deal with your problem. They will be able to answer any questions you might have.
By realistically knowing your strengths and limits, you will be able to avoid feeling helpless or overwhelmed. Remember, you do not need to take on every single task in your loved one’s journey.
We asked Dr Ganesh the following questions; they may be able to help you support your loved one cope with colorectal cancer:
- What Are The Different Treatment Options Available, And Do They Differ For Stages & Ages?
In the early stages of colorectal cancer, the complete removal of the polyp through a colonoscopy along with cancer affected regions will suffice. For cancers not in a polyp, a partial colectomy which is a surgery to remove the section of colon that is cancerous and the nearby lymph nodes is the standard treatment.
You typically will not require any more treatment. However, in later stages where the cancer has advanced, surgical removal of a portion of the colon and radiation therapy or chemotherapy with targeted therapies may be options for people who are no longer healthy enough for surgery.
- How Can A Patient’s Family Help Them Cope With Cancer Emotionally & Socially?
The keywords here are support and patience. As the patient is undergoing cancer treatment, they may be suffering from both physical and mental stress from the disease. The surrounding family members must offer them support and allow them to understand that they are not combating the situation by themselves. Remind them that there is a community to help them see through the challenge.
- What Are The Possible Physical Side Effects Of The Treatment Which A Caregiver Should Expect From The Patient?
For patients undergoing chemotherapy & radiotherapy, they may face common side effects such as:
- Skin Irritation (redness, blistering, and peeling)
- Rectal irritation (which can cause diarrhoea)
- Painful bowel movements
- Blood in the stool
- Bowel incontinence (stool leakage)
- Bladder irritation & burning or pain while urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Decreased sex drive & erection issues in men or vaginal irritation in women
- Scarring, fibrosis (stiffening), and adhesions that cause the tissues in the treated area to stick to each other
As a caregiver, it is essential to be patient and supportive to your loved one as most side effects should get better over time after the treatment ends. However, some problems may not go away completely. For more severe side effects, it is then essential to advise the patient to talk to their doctor right away so that steps can be taken to reduce or relieve them.
When helping a loved one cope with colorectal cancer, it is important to remind them that they are not alone. They have a support system made up of friends and family members along with a team of dedicated doctors.
It is crucial that as a caregiver, you aim to take care of your own needs, both mental and physical. As much as you remind your loved one that they are not facing this diagnosis alone, you should remind yourself of the same thing.