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National Cancer Institute  logo

Issues With Your Family

When treatment ends, families are often not prepared for the fact that recovery takes time. In general, your recovery will take much longer than your treatment did. Survivors often say that they didn't realize how much time they needed to recover. This can lead to disappointment, worry, and frustration for everyone. Families also may not realize that the way their family works may have changed permanently as a result of cancer. They may need help to deal with the changes and keep the "new" family strong.

Some survivors say they would not have been able to cope without their family members and the help they offered. And even though treatment has ended, they still receive a lot of support. For others, problems that were present before the cancer may still exist, or new ones may develop. You may receive less support from others than you had hoped.

Even though treatment has ended, you may face problems with your family. For instance, if you used to take care of the house or yard before your treatment, you may find that these jobs are still too much for you to handle. Yet family members who took over for you may want life to go back to normal and expect you to do what you used to do around the house. You may feel that you aren't getting the support you need.

Other times, you may expect more of your family than you receive. They disappoint you, which might make you angry or frustrated. For one woman, it was a family member's lack of support during her treatment that upset her. "Never once, not a card, not a phone call, and I have a hard time looking at her today."

You may still need to depend on others during this time, even though you want to get back to the role you had in your family before. At the same time, your family is still adjusting. It may be hard for you and your family to express feelings or know how to talk about your cancer.

To help your family members, you may want to share NCI's booklet for caregivers, Facing Forward: When Someone You Love Has Completed Cancer Treatment.

Getting Help With Family Issues

Some family members may have trouble adjusting to changes or feel that their needs are not being met. Your family may want to deal with issues such as these on its own, or you may want to consider getting outside help. Ask your doctor or social worker to refer you to a counselor or therapist. An expert on family roles and concerns after cancer treatment can help your family solve its problems.

Tips: Dealing With Family Issues

How do you cope with family issues? Here are some ideas that have helped others:
  • Let others know what you are able to do as you heal — and what not to expect. Don't feel you must keep the house or yard in perfect order because you always did in the past.
  • Give yourself time. You and your family may be able to adjust over time to the changes cancer brings. Just being open with each other can help ensure that each person's needs are met.
  • Help your children (or grandchildren) understand that you were treated for cancer and that it may take a while for you to have the energy you used to have. Children of cancer survivors have said that these things are important:
    • Being honest with them
    • Speaking as directly and openly as possible
    • Allowing them to become informed about your cancer and involved in your recovery
    • Spending extra time with them

With your permission, other family members should also be open with your children about your cancer and its treatment.

Aetna Member: If you are a female member of an HMO-based plan and would like more information about breast cancer and breast cancer prevention, please call (888) 322-8742.

Miembros de Aetna: Si tiene un plan HMO y desea más información sobre el cáncer de seno y la prevención del cáncer de seno, por favor llame al 1-888-322-8742.

Last updated April 2, 2010




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