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Colorectal Cancer: In Treatment: Day To Day Living

How To Involve Family, Friends and the Non-Medical Professionals In Your Life

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Your team 

Start thinking about the people around you as part of your team, just as doctors and other professionals are part of your team. Each member can provide his or her knowledge, advice and support.

Who is actually involved with you and to what degree is up to you. You do not have to accept help just because it is offered.

Likewise, you can set limits on peoples' participation in your experience. For example, only spend time with people who are positive and supportive.

Expect that people will let you know when they hear stories about other people with your cancer or who undergo the treatment you are undergoing.

  • This information can be overwhelming and not helpful.
  • Feel free to let people know what you do or do not want them to tell you about what they may find out.
  • Check any information you do learn with your doctor.

Ask for the help you need

Do not wait to ask for help until the burden gets too great or you reach a breaking point. You don't need to be superman or superwoman and try to deal with everything you did before plus deal with everything that has come up since your diagnosis.

  • There will be times when you will need help either doing everyday tasks such as grocery shopping or matters directly related to your health such as bathing, accompanying you to doctor appointments or acting as a patient advocate if you enter a hospital.
  • You may feel tired after a treatment and need someone else to take over your chores temporarily.

Make a list and divide up the chores and responsibilities that you can't handle right now.

If you don't feel like eating your normal amount of food, or even eating at all, ask family members and friends to take turns cooking foods that you are likely to eat. Doing what you can to eat nutritiously and avoid losing weight during treatment is part of good medical care. (See “To Learn More”).

Consider appointing a person to be an “Organizer” to coordinate family and friends on your behalf. It takes away the burden and makes sure no needs fall through the cracks. It is also helpful to your team members because they can more easily say "no" when they have to.

If you need Medicaid (Medi-cal in California) and have too many assets, consider entering into a caregiver contract with a family member or friend. Such a contract is one of the legal ways of reducing your assets so you can qualify for Medicaid. See  "To Learn More."

Think about their needs as well as your own.

A diagnosis affects everyone around you. Your needs come first, but theirs should not be ignored.

Just as you need to share your emotions, they should keep talking with one another about the emotions which surface because of your diagnosis and treatment. Talking keeps mole hill size difficulties from erupting in to mountain size problems.

You can let family and friends know what is happening during your treatment through web sites such as the American Cancer Society’s Circle of Sharing offsite link.

Prepare for friends’ reactions

Don’t be surprised at unexpected reactions from friends. Your treatment likely reminds them of their own mortality.

Keep in mind that their reaction has more to do with their needs than with you.

The odds are new people are entering your life triggered by your diagnosis and treatment.

More information is in our document: Disclosing Your Health Condition.

Relax family rules to fit the situation

For example:

  • Meals can be eaten on paper plates with throw away plastic utensils.
  • Chores that don't need to be done right away can be postponed.

Involve the non-medical professionals in your life

Tell the non-medical professionals in your life such as your lawyer, accountant and insurance person about your diagnosis and treatment. They may have suggestions about how it affects specific situations in your life and how to best deal with it.

NOTE: There are a few treatments that will require you to avoid close contact with loved ones for a short period of time. If this is something you will have to do, your doctor will tell you about it when going over treatment options. Be sure to let loved ones know what is happening before you withdraw from them.

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