Facing a life changing or chronic Illness

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Here is a link to Part II of my guest blog on “Overcoming with God: http://cfpagels.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/breast%20cancer#.Uz981PldWOs 

During my breast cancer journey, I felt that I learned some important and helpful tips that I would like to share here. If you have a friend or family member going through any life threatening or chronic illness, my hope is that you will find hope and encouragement from my words.

Tips for friends and Family
1. Don’t be afraid to talk to them!
They are still the same person you knew before they got ill, and they want and need companionship as much as ever. Life altering illness can be a lonely journey. Sometimes friends and family back off, because they don’t know what to say, or how to deal with it. However, this is the time to consider that your own insecurities and vulnerabilities should not keep you from reaching out to your loved ones.
2. Let them know you are willing to help–ask what they need without being pushy.
Many people going through an intense illness will not even know themselves what they need or want during this time. Based on your knowledge of their normal activities, it can be a special blessing to take on one of their more ‘mundane’ tasks to relieve them of a burden. And if there are children in the family, be sure to ask of their likes/dislikes as well. Although I enjoyed the varied casserole dishes, my children didn’t always enjoy those as much. Also, consider providing extra paper goods–there are often extra guests visiting.
3. Expect the unexpected when it comes to emotions.
For most, this will be an undiscovered country, and the accompanying emotions can be overwhelming. As a friend, you can listen, absorb, empathize, and often, reach new levels in your relationship. For me, shortly after my diagnosis, I burst into tears when a bouquet was delivered to our home from Jon’s company. Although I enjoy beautiful flowers and gifts, I am not one who usually cries about receiving them.
4. Be patient when they are talking to you–Chemo Brain is real.
With my treatments, I would get quite frustrated when I would forget what I was saying in the middle of a sentence. This continued for a while after chemo finished, and, yes, Jon wasn’t quite sure whether this was chemo or age.
5. Keep your distance when you are ill.
If you have an infectious illness such as a cold or flu, keep your distance, but stay in contact. In most cases, chemo patients will have compromised immune systems, but do call and talk on the phone or chat online.
6. Remember this is a lonely journey.
I think the most difficult part of my journey was loneliness. It was wonderful, having so many friends who provided for us in so many ways. Some came and cleaned our house every chemo day, provided meals for our family, gave donations towards my wig, and contributed toward a scholarship for my children to attend a Christian School, since it would have been a hardship to continue home-schooling. These were all such a blessing to us; however, I often missed the routine companionship. I wanted my friends to just pop in and visit–let me talk about what was going on or just talk about everyday ‘normal’ things.
7. Most of all, never forget the greatest blessing–PRAYER!
I was blessed by God’s promise before I even knew I was sick, and He knows all of the tomorrows of each of His children.

Note to Hair Stylists cutting someone’s hair after hair loss and re growth:
Cut sparingly, remembering that someone who has had no hair might not want it cut too short. Even if it takes several tries to get the correct length, they will appreciate your concern about their wish for a full head of hair. I was a bit disappointed at how mucho was cut during my first haircut, not to mention, my new little ringlets were cut and did not return–no more wash, scrunch and wear style.

Tips for the Patient–and, yes, you must be patient
1. Trust God’s plan for you.
He knows your joys and sorrows, and His plan is not thwarted by your illness.
2. Accept offers of help.
Remember that if you don’t accept help, you may be robbing someone of the blessing available to them for giving and following God’s leading. Consider making a list of helpful items needed, such as snacks, extra paper goods etc.
3. Take someone with you to all appointments, especially at the beginning.
You are likely to be overwhelmed with information and directions, and you may not remember important instructions. You should both take notes and double check any follow-ups before leaving appointments.
4. Try to look at the positive side–even look for humor!
Studies show that people with a positive attitude and a spiritual belief system have a much better survival rate.
5. Find a Christian support group.
I actually attended two support groups–one at the hospital that was not ‘Christian’, but included all breast cancer patients so we could share in our common experiences. The other was a Christian group for various types of cancer patients and their caregivers. People would be surprised to hear the laughter coming from that room in the church, especially if they knew we were all on a cancer journey.
6. Be proactive in your care and accept suggestions of alternative treatments graciously.Upon hearing of your diagnosis, many will quickly share suggestions of alternative care–thank them and even look into them; however, you need to listen to your doctors advice. Use the internet to look up information and your care options–ask your doctor to explain everything and tell you all of your options (some doctors need urging to share the options with you). If he is unwilling to take the time to share options with you, maybe you need to change doctors or ask for a second opinion. It is important that you trust your care provider.
7. Trust God’s plan for you.
Yes, this is a repeat—but it is too important not to come both first and last in this list. He has promised to be with us in the valley of the shadow of death, so that we can fear no evil. Then, when we look back, we will see that goodness and mercy have been following us all the days of our lives.

 

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