By April Greene and Wendy Griffith, social work counselors
Mother's Day is a special day that we set aside to celebrate our mothers and honor the joys of motherhood. But for moms diagnosed with cancer, this day can be especially trying.
While you may feel grateful to spend this special day with your children and loved ones, you also may wonder how many more Mother's Days you have left.
Some moms even feel guilty on Mother's Day because it reminds them of the things they can no longer do for their family.
Rather than focusing on the difficult feelings, why not focus on celebrating the real meaning of Mother's Day by spending time with your family and making memories that you'll all cherish?
Making handprints: An easy way to make memories
Making a handprint with your loved ones is one great way to do this - even if you're experiencing mixed emotions and limitations from cancer or cancer treatment.
Recently by Social Work Bloggers
By April Greene and Wendy Griffith, social work counselors
By Laura Nathan-Garner
A parent's cancer diagnosis can turn a child's world upside down, no matter how young or old the child is.
But coping with a parent's cancer diagnosis can be especially difficult for teens, tweens and even younger children.
Below our social work counselors April Greene and Wendy Griffith answer questions about parenting through cancer and helping kids and teens cope with a parent's cancer diagnosis.
What's the best way to talk to kids about cancer?
No matter what your prognosis is, it's essential to talk openly and honestly with kids. If you're telling your kids for the first time, try to have this conversation in a private space where you can focus on the discussion and be close enough to physically console your kids if needed.
Children tend to think in very concrete terms and like to know what's going on and what to expect. If they ask something that you don't know the answer to, it's okay to tell them that you don't know and that you will work on finding the answer. The most important thing is to communicate openly, honestly and frequently.
By Stephen Collazo, Department of Social Work
Today is National Healthcare Decisions Day.
Whether you're a patient or caregiver, having conversations about future care should be an essential part of your cancer treatment planning process at every stage. It should start at the time of diagnosis.
By preparing for your future, you can ensure your choices are given the utmost respect.
Here are some steps for implementing the advance care planning process in your specific medical situation. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it serves as a good starting point for patients and families.
By Crystal McCown, social work counselor fellow
Navigating your way through a cancer journey can be tough. It can be hard to find time to care for your body, spirit and mind.
Journaling is one way patients can care for themselves. Writing down your thoughts gives you an opportunity to work out your feelings and emotions, which may help you relax and find reasons to be happier and more hopeful about the future.
Methods of journaling
There are many different types of journaling. Here are a few you might want to explore:
- Gratitude journaling: Write down everything you're grateful for. This focuses your attention on positive aspects of your life.
- Blog: A blog is a website that you can easily update by writing short posts. Blog posts can be as simple as commentary on your day-to-day life and treatment, or reflection pieces exploring your life's purpose or connecting with a higher power.
- Stream-of-consciousness writing: Write down everything that comes to your mind. This unstructured, unedited writing will reflect your raw thoughts and observations.
- Art journaling: Draw, doodle or scrapbook what you're feeling and thinking.
- Line-a-day journaling: Limit yourself to a single line or sentence for the day.
By Emily Weaver, Social Work Counselor
You're sitting in the waiting room, your heart is racing, your palms are sweating and your blood pressure is rising.
You've had difficulty sleeping the past few nights because your mind is racing with worries about your upcoming CT or MRI scans.
You've considered cancelling your appointment, but know it will only delay your care in the long run.
Patients and cancer professionals call this "scanxiety." And, because CT and MRI scans are associated with the diagnosis of cancer, scanxiety is a normal feeling.
But sometimes scanxiety can interfere with your daily life and the ability to engage in your own medical care.
Here are strategies you can use to help manage scanxiety.
By Sarah Hines
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
- Maya Angelou
While the masses are out shopping for long-stem roses, many of our patients and their loved ones find themselves preoccupied with MRI results, blood counts and chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, cancer doesn't only affect the individual who is diagnosed. Relationships are impacted, with spouses, partners, and significant others of patients facing many challenges and hurdles throughout the cancer journey.
As a couple adapts to a cancer diagnosis, it's important to understand that old communication patterns may no longer serve the same purpose. Couples often utilize very different coping styles to handle the diagnosis. Some openly express their emotions, while others reflect on them internally.
By Sarah Hines
"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., let's reflect on how the ideas of uniqueness and unity expressed in this quote apply to our lives and hold special meaning for those affected by cancer.
By understanding how your cancer experience is both unique to your own situation and similar to the experience shared by others, there's an opportunity to find both meaning and hope.
Understanding the uniqueness of cancer
The effect of cancer and treatment on the body
Not every type of cancer affects every person in the same way. The same is true for how different patients respond to different treatments and their side effects. Age, gender, physical activity, diet and environmental factors all differ from patient to patient.
By April Greene and Wendy Griffith
With the holiday season upon us, there is no better opportunity to work on creating your legacy.
For many cancer patients, this can be a helpful way to cope with the cancer experience.
Creating your legacy isn't about death and dying, though. It's about life and living. It's about making connections and sharing precious moments with the special people in your life.
Legacy work is the act of putting the things you want your loved ones to remember about you or learn from you on paper or into a project or activity.
No matter what holiday you celebrate, the time you spend with loved ones and the memories that you make together will be a part of your legacy. They will live on for years and may even create traditions that will be carried on by future generations.
How to create memories
Wondering how your current holiday activities are contributing to your legacy? Or need some inspiration for creating some new traditions? Here are some ideas.
By Stephen Collazo, social work counselor
National Family Caregivers Month is here, and I want to start by thanking all of the caregivers reading this for your help in Making Cancer History. Without the numerous hours of care and support you give your loved ones -- our patients -- it would be much more difficult for MD Anderson to provide the quality of care that we do.
Caregivers of cancer patients may face several challenges while caring for a loved one.
Emotional distress and learning to cope with the patient's cancer is the most commonly identified stressor for caregivers. Not only are the actual tasks of providing care taxing, but having to see the person you truly care for suffer can make caregiving even more challenging.
Helpful strategies for the caregiver
While your job can be difficult, caregivers may find the following strategies helpful throughout their loved one's cancer experience.
By Ginasenda Rodriguez and Stephen Collazo, Social Work Counselors
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Intimate parent violence (IPV), more commonly known as domestic violence, occurs any time a partner willfully hurts or threatens to hurt his or her partner in any way, physically, sexually or verbally.
All too often, there are children present in the homes where this type of abuse occurs.
Studies show that children who witness domestic violence against a parent while growing up have a higher incidence of mental health issues than the general population.
In the article "More Than You Might Think: Cancer Victims and Domestic Violence," we discussed some of the differences with how people diagnosed with cancer experience IPV compared to the general population.
Based on certain risk factors, we know that patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses are at a greater risk for IPV. Therefore, we can assume that kids whose parents have cancer may have a higher risk of being exposed to IPV in the home.
If you, as a parent with cancer, are in a situation where you're being abused by your partner, there are some strategies to help reduce or heal the emotional trauma your child may experience. Many of these tools are very similar to those that are recommended for helping children cope with a parent's cancer.
By Johanna Pule, Department of Social Work
This post is a continuation of the Young Adult Caregiving series. Part one detailed the role of a parent caregiver. This one focuses on issues specific to caregiving as the spouse or partner of a young adult patient.
In sickness and in health: Being the partner of a cancer patient living with cancer
Marriage, in fact, relationships in general, can be hard work. Throwing a diagnosis of cancer into the mix creates new obstacles and challenges for a young adult couple.
As the spouse or partner of a patient living with cancer, you may be the primary caregiver for your loved one throughout the course of treatment and may find yourself facing some of the following issues.
Fertility and intimacy
Many treatment side effects can lead to infertility in both male and female patients. As young adults, you may have been making plans to start a family. Often, the logistics of exploring the fertility options that are available, feasible and affordable can be daunting. Fertile Hope offers a fantastic collection of resources for assisting patients and their partners in this search.
Caring for the whole patient, sex life and all, is part of the standard, holistic approach to cancer care. Most health care providers are open to not only exploring fertility options, but are available to discuss intimacy issues with patients and their partners.
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- Moms with cancer: Making Mother's Day memories
- When a parent has cancer: Helping teens and kids cope
- Advance care planning: 4 steps for planning your future
- Journaling your way through cancer
- 6 tips to cope with a cancer diagnosis
- CT and MRI scans: Tips for coping with stress
- Strengthening relationships during the cancer journey
- The cancer experience: Finding similarities in our unique experiences
- How to build your legacy and make memories that last
- Celebrating caregivers: 5 tips to help manage the caregiving role
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