In The Eyes of a Cancer Patient

In The Eyes of a Cancer Patient

By: Maggie Griffin

The title to this column is a topic I know all too well, Cancer. Having been through this battle myself, I understand both worlds of a patient and a parent. But sometimes I wonder if others truly understand what it is like through the eyes of a cancer patient.

The News Strikes – when a cancer patient and their love ones is delivered the news of being diagnosed with cancer, the shock doesn’t leave in an instant. To swallow the thought of “what is going to happen to me” or “Will I die” is a thought that is a long-term reality. Worries set in, fear takes its place – there is no escape. We think to ourselves – “This cannot be happening”.

The emotional feeling of cancer is actually harder than coping with the other medical problems. This is a fact. Every cancer patient I have spoken to is equal to psychological distress because of coping with cancer.

The Adjustment – In the beginning, cancer patients and their love ones who are close to them adjust to a cancer diagnosis that results in problems, depression and anxiety. It’s the fear of the “unknown”. Other situations occur where families of cancer patients face work related problems, financial strains and most of all worries about those who have children with cancer. But unless you live it, in reality – it’s hard to understand.

My Chemical Romance: It has been noted by physicians who care for cancer patients that depression and anxiety does effect the cancer treatments themselves. I lived it. Causes of depression and anxiety for a cancer patient are “acceptance” of changes. It’s sad that we live in a world of ignorant people who label one who has cancer and live the battle.

In my life – my example is the only support and understanding I received was from my husband and 2 children. But people who called themselves my "friends" and those in my workforce; they didn’t understand.

I was discriminated to be honest in my work force. I was made fun of by colleagues in real estate, was talked about and laughed at. I took it all in. But my tears were worse than my pain - and only tears God saw me shed. I had to accept more emotional set backs because I was bald being treated for cancer, I had to accept in the eyes of those who did not understand that I wasn't good enough because I have cancer. This is when I decided to don't tell when asked.

Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell – I felt embarrassed and ashamed, scared what people thought of me when going through chemotherapy – the loss of my hair suddenly became a joke for others. It took me down and raised concerns from the specialist at the cancer treatment center to the point where treatments had to be discontinued. The family I came from didn’t understand the diagnosis either. One Aunt even told me “we are born to die”. That’s encouraging.

People in my surroundings were more apt to pet my bald head and ask me questions about where else I lost my hair rather than asking “how are you doing”. I’ve reached the point where I slipped away from people so I didn’t have to go through the “Don’t ask because I won’t tell” – this allowed me to overcome negative stress caused by others when being treated for cancer so I can resume to receive treatments.

Understand emotions do affect the way treatments are physically receptive to a cancer patient. Positive emotions are vital when being treated for cancer - otherwise more physical medical problems can occur. Positive emotions is a must. But in this world, people who do not truly understand these facts - tend to be the ones who cause more stress on a negative level to a cancer patient, of which even after treatment can also cause a relapse in the cancer patient.

The Side effects of Chemotherapy – This is factual information, and a few of which I experienced, along with other cancer patients I know. The side effects commonly caused in chemotherapy treatment that I had was: Fatigue, Nausea, Vomiting, Pain, Hair Loss, Anemia, Infections, Blood Clotting, Mouth, Gum and Throat Problems, Diarrhea, Constipation, Nerve and Muscle Dis-function , Shedding of Skin and Nails, Radiation Burns, Kidney Problems, Bladder Problems, Flu-Like Symptoms, Fluid Retention, Memory Loss, Anorexia and Dehydration.

I referred to my chemo treatments as "My Chemical Killer". It became so common for me to refer to my chemo that way - it reached the point where every time I had a chemo treatment, the nurses would ask me "Maggie - would you like your usual today?"  "Sure - after you poke me with needles and drain my port. Don't forget the freeze."

It’s not over when the Chemo Sings – Getting back to a normal life is not expected after the treatments for cancer. Some do not understand this concept. Never assume that a cancer patient is done with cancer after chemo where a cancer patient can resume to a normal life style.

Following the battle is continued checkups to the oncologist. The fear of relapse takes place. This is where cancer patients, and close immediate families of cancer patients, often have a lot of emotional problems. To many people, who don’t understand, seem to automatically assume and expect one with cancer will be able to resume his or her previous "normal" life style before the diagnosis and treatment. Wrong!

To go back to a regular work schedule and start socializing again is tough. Cancer last long after the active treatment. In the eyes of a cancer patient, the values of life changes as well, meaning their faith changes and the appreciation of the little things mean more than material matters. I know this because this is a change that took over in me too.

Currently I have two good friends who are parents of  children who have cancer.  Facing the unexpected as their children are battling cancer, not only do they cry day and night, worried and are scared, but they, as parents of children with cancer, are also gaining their help to cope by support methods of their own, building a road of courage and strength. They too are battling cancer, on another level outside of surgeries and chemo, with their children who are getting chemo and surgeries.

Through what they are battling as parents of children with cancer, they are also sending a message out to other people by participating and inviting others in support groups and causes to find a cure for cancer. Their courage, and the courage and strength in their children, is creating a path to help others while they are going through the battle of  cancer. Parents of a child with cancer are also the caregivers to their children 24/7, meanwhile, inside their hidden tears is pain, wishing they can take the cancer away from their children.

Understand the Feelings of Parents who have children with Cancer - Every day when they see their children smile and laugh, it brings a sign of relief for them – but there is no cure of worries, anxiety, emotions or depression for a parent that has a child with cancer. These feelings are normal and need loving support from others who understand.

My two personal friends are taking bold steps to the mission of finding a cure, with courage of their own.  They enlighten an example to their own children, and example of the fight to find a cure for cancer takes courage and strong willpower within.

In a Parent’s Eyes – the feeling of being powerless is the worse feeling any parent can feel when caring for a child with cancer, or any child with life threatening illness for that matter. The fears of one thought - Parents are not supposed to outlive their children.

Nothing can take away the tears, worries, stress and emotions from a mother and father who experience the battle of cancer through their children's eyes. Caring for a child with advanced cancer is not easy, but the feelings and worries are worse than the unexpected for a parent. You see, when a child battles cancer, their parents battle that cancer right with them. In the eyes of a parent – these are few of the many things they battle and think when it comes to childhood cancer.

1. When a child asks - What will happen to me if I die?

2. Parents take every day as a new day of opportunity to be with their child.

3. In younger children – they may draw pictures to express their feelings of their battle of cancer, in which these are pictures of signs a parent needs to look for to be able to talk to their child by encouraging their child – everything will be OK.

4. Parents will feel their own anger, guilt and emotions.

5. Parents are the core role of being the caregiver to their child battling cancer, 24/7, looking for signs, sleepless nights, checking on their child constantly – even when their child is asleep.

There is No Time to be Vein – not about a cancer patient and certainly not in a cancer patient. Listen to the music in your heart – its God’s song. As one friend who has a son battling cancer for the second time, “Keep The Faith” is not just a purpose, it is a mission to find a cure. As my other friend who as a son battling cancer - her current mission is the "BALD" statement - of which benefits the cause to find a cure for childhood cancer.

As multiple time cancer patient in remission – I will state one fact: Understand a cancer patient as well. Don’t be The Judge and The Jury by cruelty in words to and about any cancer patient. It’s the worst thing someone can do in sickness and in health – the result is guilt in the end. Guilt of actions to another of an act of cruelty in life - is something that those in the human race cannot deal with after death. A cancer patient understand this. The ones who haven't seen the light yet - take my word in self experience - I am delivering you the light in this column.

I have learned one lesson though through my own experience in the battle of cancer along with the emotions that come with it. That lesson is – separate from people who cause the negative emotions so that a life can be a longer life to live. Positively Positive – there is no time for negative intake nor shall it be given to a cancer patient. My example is - while people see rain and snow as a pain – I see it as Heaven on Earth.

Support, love, prayers, hope and most of all – UNDERSTANDING - is required for a cancer patient. Most of all, remember one fact, in the eyes of a cancer patient – “The eyes are the windows of their souls, but the smiles of a cancer patient, young or old, tell others what their soul is thinking.”

Ladies and Gentlemen - Welcome to the Planet of Cancer:

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