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Coping for Family Members/Caregivers


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How do you you guys cope with a family member/loved one having lung cancer?

I know that's a strange question but I feel that now after almost a year of going thru all of this with my mom, that I am no longer the strong one. Co-workers have suggested seeing my Dr. to get some Zanex or some anti-depressants. I really don't want to have to go that route, but if it helps me keep my sanity then I may have to.

It was also suggested seeing a counselor or a therapist. I am not sure who, what, when, where, etc... I don't even know what insurance will cover/not cover.

I guess that I am just looking for ideas on how to handle the stress and sadness of this horrible disease in a healthy way.


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Let me say how sorry I am that you are hurting so badly right now. It is overwhelming at times to watch someone you love so much go through all of this treatment and be in pain. We wouldn't be very good human beings if this didn't touch us in those ways. The longer this goes, feelings of weakness come to the surface more often. Trust me, you are stronger then you think you are. All of this is quite natural to be feeling.

I don't know about "healthy" ways of coping as I don't perceive anti-depressants as unhealthy. I was on them long before Tony became ill as depression tends to run in my family. Xanax, on the other hand, is something I've stayed away from except at night to help with sleep. It makes me a zombie and I never wanted to walk around in a fog.

You need a support system to air your feelings. If you don't have people who truly understand what you are going through, then a therapist might be the answer. I'm not a big fan of using the patient as a sounding board for venting -- they have enough going on in their minds without our added burdens. (Not saying you are doing that.) Exercise is a known stress-reducer, so you may want to look into ways of incorporating that into your lifestyle. A strong faith and prayer is important because God can take anything we sling at him during prayer. (Trust me on this one. I've thrown more then a few handfuls of mud in God's eye and raged at him, but haven't been struck by a bolt of lightning...yet!)

You also have to embrace the idea that you cannot control the cancer, BUT you do have control over letting it run your life. Take the good times and hold them close to your heart to fortify you when the bad times roll around. (I know, easier said than done.)

A lot of how my husband and I managed to get through 2 1/2 years on this merry-go-round was through humor. I realize you are far younger than I am, but my Mom and I also used humor a lot when she was dying and I was in my mid-twenties. I understand that, as a young person, this is hitting you pretty hard. It is hard for any age, but the older we get, the more life experience we have to reach into our back pockets and utilize. This whole mess will go into your back pocket for your trials later in life.

Prayers that you can find resources and help. Don't forget there is a cast of hundreds right here to lean on when the going gets tough.



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I think Welthy said it very well, and explained everything. All I can add is some personal experiences to try to help, and I'll use Debbi's ideas as jumping points.

Meds. Nothing wrong with meds. My mother in law started taking them shortly after Col's DX and they have worked wonders for her. I forget what she's taking, and i can find out if you're interested, but wow, what a difference. She was always high strung, but during those initial days, she was jumping all over doctors and freaking out and I truly believed she was going to loose her mind or stroke out or something. The meds have worked wonders for her, i tell her she's calmer now than she was even before Col's DX.

Humor. Oh my word, where would I be without humor. I'd venture to guess drunk in a gutter somewhere outside of the loony bin that I just escaped from. Humor is what saves me. Cancer can and will get a hold of you if you let it, so Col and I laugh at it. I'll give you a prime example. We were at a friend's 50th b-day party on Sat. That puts us at an avaerage of 20 years younger than everyone else there, so we hung out by the beer and talked all night, it was good to just be out somewhere talking. Well we were intorduced to like a million people, but one stood out. Col was holding a soda, and her hand was really cold, and when she shook the lady's hand the lady was like wow Col you're hand is so cold why is your hand so cold. Col said that it was because she was holding the soda. But I pretty much started giggling right away and after the lady left Col said what's so funny. I said Oh I don't know you're standing here all bald and beautiful, and this lady just trying to be nice asked why your hand was so cold. I said how funny would it have been if you just freaked out and started yealling it's because I have freaking cancer dumby. I'm standing here all bald and all the heat escaping my head and your asking me why I'm cold. Well she started laughing histerically. We both laughed for a good 5 minutes one of those uncontrollable laughs, that you think you're done and then you start up again.

And to the mud slinging. If anyone was ever going to be struck down it woould be me. I had a night about a month ago where I had a complete meltdown. I am outside yelling up at the sky, calling out God, my dead grandparents, my uncle who passed away from LC, two of my parents closest friends who passed away from LC everyone I could think of got called out that night. And it wasn't pretty. It wasn't like I was like dear pap, I love you dearly can you help me out...OHHHH No, I didn't call any of them by name, I just called them names, very very mean names. Questioned the existence of everything I was taught, and told them I'm done believing until they give me a reason to. Now while none of this worked to solve our problems, I sure as heck felt a lot better when I was done. So if yelling is your thing, I'm really good at it, then have at it.

As far as being the strong one, you may not feel like it, God knows I don't, but you are. The patients seek strength from those they love, not because they perceive you as strong, but more so because they love you and you love them, and that love gives them strength. God know's I'm tired, COl doesn't, but God and just about everyone else does. I find that happening more and more now. At some point everyday here at work, I stop and say man I'm tired. I'm tired of cancer, I'm tired of Col being sick, I'm tired of just having to live with this stupid thing hanging over our lives. I'm tired of going from June of 2006 and having our lives totally figured out to being thrown into something heartbreaking in July and trying to get through it and then to have this STUPID cancer thrown onto her in October. In FOUR months we went from having life figured out, I mean really figured out, into the battle of our lives. Oh yeah, I'm tired. But mostly I'm tired of worrying about what the next scan will show, tired of wondering when the next shoe will drop, and just how many damn shoes they have up there to keep dropping on us. Then I think what the hell I'm I so tired about, and if I'm tired, how tired must Col be. And some days we're just tired together. But not for long cause we have to get back to the fight at hand. Oh and sometimes, when you're writing a post to try to offer support to someone else, you find a way to vent and get over being tired, just like I did in this little tirade.

Sorry about that, but hopefully I was able to get some situations across to you that have helped us out tremndously throughout. Most importantly, you will always find great support here from all these wonderful people. I never knew you could care about and love people you have never met before so much. But they are truly remarkable, and I am thankful they are here.

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I recommend a good therapist. If you can find someone who knows about cancer, all the better. Mine is awesome. Last week I was just so down, I was using some colorful words to describe a driver who was rude and she did raise an eyebrow, literally. I don't know what it meant but I didn't care. She didn't either I guess. Anyway, I see her every two weeks. Your ins. rep at the 800 number will tell you exactly what is covered for how long and what you will have to pay. It is worth it.

I also take an anti-depressant. Talk to your dr. to decide which one is best for you. It does take a few weeks to go into effect but I find knowing I am doing something helps right away.

I am always amazed at how everyone here says something that I have been thinking or feeling about this horrible journey. JB I appreciated that you could rant here and know it is a safe place. I just wish Rod and I could laugh and talk like some of you. He isn't accepting.....stuff. I have been told repeatedly by therapist, and good friend, in the past 4 days that I am not in control, I can't make him do things and I can't make God do what I want. I am trying to let go. How do you let go? When my mom died, I couldn't let go, even when she was gone I wailed to her to stay, into a pillow in another room where I wouldn't freak out my dad.

I'm sure this hasn't been that helpful.


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Could say Welthy hit it on the head,

best advise given, see what is offered

as help and make your choice.

I did it the cold way, as nothing

was ever offered to me and it was only

after Mike was gone that I realized

that I would pay with my health for

doing it the hard way, four years

later still paying as my body will

never recuperate fully from it.

Those eighteen months of sickness

for Mike were so full of life, laughter

and fast living to kind of make up for

the dull moments we may have had in

our healthy time that now I see that

Mike was getting help from medication

while I was burning my reserve.

Take care and make a good choice in

the help offered and the way will be

much easier for all of you.



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After all the great posts here (especially Welthy who I want as a personal therapist !!)I just wanted to add what I found helps. I think recognising that I was not alone in feeling weak/on the edge/ etc etc and that many people here expressed those same fears and vulnerabilities. It is so very hard and at times we feel strong and in control and able to cope but other times we feel ready to crumble. We are all basically the same and have the same reactions to fear and stress. I would not hesitate to get a therapist or look to medication if I thought I might need it. I have in the past and I would again. I know they both work - at least for me and many of my friends. Humour is also something that as I have got older helps me more and more to cope with the accumulation of little stresses that fly our way !!!

Wishing you peace and strength


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Chesney. I am not sure about KY, but here in NY CancerCare had oncological social workers that are free!! I called one a few times, in addition to my own therapist, to talk about cancer-specific stuff.

all the other posts here are great and spot on. therapy was a big help to me. the therapist and one or two friends I could absolutely ANYthing to, even my deepest, darkest fears and thoughts, was really the most crucial part, though. as hard as it was, I also had to find *some* way to take a break here and there. even a 30 minute pedicure was very restorative for me, but not long enough for guilt to set in. the folks here also reinforced to me that I needed to take good, basic care of myself - eat enough, sleep enough, etc. I did yoga before mom's diagnosis, but I found a physical outlet extremely helpful for my aggravation/frustration/anger.

wish I could say it gets easier. it gets easier, then hard again, then different, etc. etc. it's a roller coaster, that's for sure.

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I will add what little I can to all the wonderful advice already given.

I do not take anti depressants, but would not get by

without ambein to help me sleep at night. Alan has

been in the battle for almost 3 years now, and the

roller coaster ride has been just that up and down

with some whiplashing curves in between.

As for a therapist, I would check with the hospital

your Mom gets her treatments at. The hospiatl Alan

goes to has social workers avaible free of charge.

I have been going to the social worker since Alan's

dignosis. Also I was able to find a Lung cancer support goup which is

for both patients and their loved ones.

Many prayers for you and your family

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This year has been difficult in so many ways. I've found that dealing with the cancer has taken its toll in odd ways. For example for much of this year I have done what was necessary to function at work and in the organizations I belong to, but on the weekends I would go into my house on Friday and not come out again until Monday morning. I cry at the drop of a hat and I find myself wanting to avoid anything unpleasant because so much of what I've been dealing with had been unpleasant.

This journey cannot help but have a profound impact on you. It isn't a bad thing to feel sad and angry and frightened. Let us help you.


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Thank you all for your wonderful words of advice. I knew that I could count on the wonderful people here on this board for guidance with this issue. My dad has recently been put on anti-depressants with everything that has been going on. I just didn't know if this was or will be the right path for me. Sleeping has been easier lately because I am soooo exhaused and drained after working 10 hour days then cooking and cleaning for mom and dad, then cooking and cleaning for my husband. But it's not about me. It's all about mom and making sure that she is happy and has everything that she needs.

This week has been especially hard with the latest developments. Mets to the spine now. Her Onc Dr. pulled me aside and we talked about all of her medications that she is on, etc...and for the first time he said "just be prepared, she is going to go soon". This absoultely ruined me. Obviously we know that this will be the eventual outcome at some point in time, but to hear the words out of his mouth was sooooo hard. I know that we shouldn't always believe what the Drs. say but to hear him say it was devastating. I am just so glad that he didn't say it in front of Mom. She has been so postitive and gung-ho ever since she was diagnosed. I do NOT want her attitude about all of this to change.

Thank you again for the words of advice and encouragement. Just being able to talk to those going thru this horrible disease and all the family members and caregivers who understand and have been there is a blessing.

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I feel for you and I think I know what you are going through (Although I'm a little older than you, I still think 32 is too young to lose my dad.) There were a few things that were somewhat helpful to me:

1) This board

2) UCLA (where my dad was treated) had two social workers who specialized in dealing with oncology patients and their families. I found this extremely helpful.

3) Exercise/Eating Healthfully--I swam and ran 4-5 times a week and those workouts were incredible

4) Yoga/Meditation--Although I'm not a huge practioner, I found a book ("Full Catastrophe Living") on meditation to be very helpful. Learning to focus on my breath and to stay in the moment was critical.

My thoughts are with you and I am sending you strength.



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