Cancer is tough and its long treatment is unbearable. You and people around you are forced towards the new normal, exactly like feeling of lockdown and there is no unlock coming. It affects your job, dent your career, and financially empty your pockets affecting remaining life for family. Because now caretaking takes center stage.
Difficulty with relationships
Cancer makes you realize how fragile and how delicate our present life is. We reexamine every life decision and every curve passed around them. We crosscheck in every vocabulary and breakdown communication in our mind. Terminal illness changes role and create a guilt. In all these break ups and relationships becomes more difficult to handle, particularly if you are so much invested in it. There is too much written about it, there is enough meme to literature about it. Half of Urdu Shayari was I think invented for the same. The health condition slowly takes away everything. Strength in legs, so came on wheelchair. Next possibly it will be voice or neck. It’s like break up, basically two people going their separate ways as they are no more aligned to a common goal. The body fights any new agent, cold or chemotherapy, they are praying against hope that it should not fight given chemotherapy. Out of 10, three people get better results. You hope to stay in those three. Doctors are fighting for not losing more functions for time being. Future, might have more dimensions to it. They keep asking if you could swallow. You respond, ‘Not sure.’
It’s not you, but Cancer
You blame yourself or blame everything around if your relationships are breaking due to the recent diagnosis. Your health go irreversible. Please do remember that some occurrence around you are happening not because of who we are as a person, but there are certain things which remain beyond our control. It takes some time to realize that we cannot influence the outcome. Such terminal illness change patient and change people around them. Cancer is no one’s fault, but it affects everyone’s mental health adversely, who is associated with it. As Hiba Siddiqui, Senior Psycho-oncologist from Max Healthcare (Delhi-NCR), added, ‘Cancer throws a lot on the couple, of which many partners feel a sense of abandonment as well. Break ups are never easy when one partner wants to stay, while the other cannot. Many times, your control over cancer diagnosis and treatment doesn’t always have a set course, thereby taking a physical and mental toll on both individuals, and impacting their relationship. There will be good and bad days, and sometimes this inconsistent pattern creates resentment and anger. This physical and mental exhaustion is often displaced on the partner, whereas the actual reason for this turmoil is the cancer and its impact on both your lives.’ Well this definitely do not address pain one partner feel, but still it helps to not point fingers at each other. These words surely helps when you or your ex is attempting to move away from tough conversation.
Respect people and their decision
We often in fit of rage say unexpected things or go completely silent with zero communication. But it becomes more important to realize we should respect people and their decisions. It’s our human quality that we seek security, safety and affection. We go into deniability or denying any such acceptance could happen to us too. In case, you or your partner decide to make a distance, let the other party know peacefully and walk away. Following relationships are anyway hard. Focus on the physical and mental health of the person dealing with cancer. Ensure you are around people and friends who respect your needs. Your body and mind respond to positivity, love and respect you are offering it.
To begin with, it was never your mistake, neither you were responsible for diagnosis nor the change in relationships. Instead we need to focus on things we could control and influence. Your health and treatment should have a conversation. We adapt, mend our expectations and we get fine by break ups with passing time.
Next step: Fundraising and networking could be an option
Fundraising could be our next step in a turmoil and it support you in long term treatment, offers you networking too, patients, Doctors, pharmacies and hospitals. In India, fundraising for your health is still a new concept. There are many such fundraising platforms in market, boosted due to lockdown. At first, you have to accept your reality. Emotionally it’s exhausting to even accepting to raise funds on an online platform. To share among your friends on WhatsApp and to inform your own extended family members. People in clan raise themselves that we would come forward to pay the bill listening about the fund raiser. Going public with your ongoing treatment and bills are a huge toll as you end up thanking everybody for rising to the occasion. First of all people keep asking, ‘what happened?’ Or ‘we met recently only, did not believe you were going through such pain.’ All you can answer is with a smile, loads of patience and copy paste messages on phone.
We need to accept ourselves then our ailment to start the idea of fundraiser, where people are coming together to contribute for better health. In my case, it was highly motivating to see over 500 people contribution was made to keep me going. Where otherwise, you could feel alone, fighting and keep paying at the hospital window. I am happy to write, share and raise the amount as it directly, help me to pay bills for ongoing chemotherapy treatment at hospital and also lower down financial burden on family. Such fundraiser, at optimum time came as a boon for my treatment. Wish others also good luck in raising their amounts for their health requirements.
Family and other Human Relationships
Cancer diagnosis, not only break existing relationships, but it also, change, evolve and positively build your new relationships. Humaira, Psychiatric social worker, from TISS-INHS Asvini added, ‘ family support, primarily, and support of others play vital role in the treatment journey.’ Relationships grow because your cancer diagnosis make some people around you more responsible. This could be an extended family member or an ex-colleague. I have received messages from many batch mates and ex colleagues to stay strong and how their families also dealt with cancer patients. Some stories were comforting and may require another dedicated article.