Post Surgery and Recovery
A carer is anyone who is looking after the person diagnosed with cancer. This page relates directly to the person who is the primary carer, who may be the partner of the person diagnosed, a father/mother, a brother/sister, a daughter/son or a friend.
Have a close relationship with your Doctor/Specialist
It is very important to let your doctor know of any symptoms that the person diagnosed with cancer is experiencing - no matter how small or insignificant you think they might be. Even a simple change in the amount they are coughing, whether there is an increase/decrease in pain when swallowing, muscular aches and pains, an increase/decrease in appetite, more or less tiredness. Doctors are not mind-readers, so it is important to assist them in any way you can by letting them know all their feelings and symptoms and any changes happening in order to assist in treatment.
Try not to let the person diagnosed with cancer keep their feelings or symptoms hidden
It is very common for a person diagnosed with cancer to hide their feelings and symptoms so that they don't make their loved ones sad or scared. This is a bad idea. It is very important for all symptoms and feelings to be known as this will aid in treatment. It will also help with maintaining pain and discomfort during the entire process as it is important to be as comfortable as possible. If you are a carer for a person who is very reluctant to share their feelings or symptoms, don't get angry or frustrated or pressure them. Gently explain that sharing their symptoms will aid their treatment and may make them feel better. It is much better to let doctors and carers know of symptoms earlier rather than later, as this can help prevent bad outcomes and tackle anything that may be happening early.
Book an appointment with your Social Worker
Making an appointment with your social worker is a great idea; they have a huge amount of non-medical information for you. They can assist you with a number of things, from putting you in touch with the Cancer Council and Home Care, to helping you with Centrelink. A social worker is also a great person to just have a chat to, about things you may not be able to tell your partner, children, friends and loved ones. Dealing with cancer and caring for a patient is a very arduous task and really does take a toll on your own personal well-being. A social worker will help by sitting you down, letting you take a deep breath and help keep things in order. They will help prepare you for whatever is ahead, whether that is the process of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and any other decisions you may need to make along the way.
Sometimes this is easier said than done, but minimising stress and stressful situations is important to create a calm and peaceful environment. It is very easy for family members/carers to become overwhelmed with the change in lifestyle - that is, all of the medicines you need to keep track of at certain times of the day, specialist appointments, hospital visits, pain management, and the questions that keep popping in your head randomly that you would like to ask the doctor. It is helpful to keep a diary to write these things down, and also to set alarms on your phone so that you never forget to a dose of medicine or your next appointment. That way, you are not constantly thinking about what time it is, and what needs to be done next.
Family and Friends
Family and friends will also experience their own emotions including sadness, anger, speechlessness, and an overwhelming urge to help in any way they can. It is a good idea to tell your family and friends directly how involved or not involved you want them to be in the process and when to give you some space. It is also important to let your family and friends know when you just don't want to talk about the cancer - it is often the case that as soon as you catch up with family or friends, the first thing they want to talk about is the cancer and how all of that is going. A great idea is for you to have a little summary of what is happening and how everyone is feeling so that your family and friends are still in the loop, but if you don't want to have a half hour long discussion afterwards, just make sure that you mention that you don't really want to have a huge discussion about it. Just a little chat about the cancer to keep them updated, and then go on and talk about something else for a change so that everything is not completely about the cancer. This is incredibly important to try and lead as normal a life as possible, and to keep positive energy and hope alive. But if you want to have long discussions about the cancer with everyone, that is completely fine as well - everyone deals with cancer differently, and you should make sure that you do what you feel comfortable doing.
If you don't want many hospital visits during surgery or chemotherapy, then gently let your loved ones know, or perhaps let everyone know that you would like them to create a schedule in which some of your family visits on the Monday and another group of friends visits on the Tuesday. It is important to limit overwhelming feelings and this can happen if there are dozens of people visiting on one day, and maybe one or two visiting the next day due to everyone else being busy with their own work, school and other things. Some people like to have many people around when they are receiving chemotherapy, and some do not. It is up to personal preference, and this should be communicated to family and friends so that your wishes are not disrupted.
This has been discussed in Family and Friends, but this deserves its own sub-heading as it is quite important when dealing with cancer. Communication with your specialist, nurses, your social worker, counsellor, family, friends, your immediate carer or the person who has been diagnosed is incredibly important to keep lines of communication open and "don't be afraid to ask". Even if you have 10 questions each time your specialist visits, ask them! Do not spend time wondering, when you can get the answer. If they are choosing a certain treatment or even a certain diet that they want you to try, and you find a problem with something or are simply curious about an aspect of the treatment, don't be afraid to ask your doctor/nurse/counsellor/etc. Try to learn and be involved in the process as you can.