“When cancer’s waters get rough, your life will feel out of control. We are taught to swim with a rough tide if it is pulling us out to sea –swimming against the tide can kill us. Going the other way is counterintuitive. How do you swim with your fears when your instincts are telling you to swim away from them? First you must acknowledge that emotions exist. Then you need to find constructive ways to incorporate them into your life.” – When Life Becomes Precious, by Elise Needell Babcock
“I’m afraid she will become too emotional, and I can’t deal with it.”
You don’t know how your partner will react. She may be relieved that she finally has an opportunity to discuss some of her concerns to a person who loves and cares about her. Perhaps she needs to become emotional and know that she is in a safe place and can let down her guard. It can be very overwhelming if you are at the other end of an outpouring of emotion, but you are not helping anyone by running away from it. If you avoid discussing the hard issues, you may be missing an opportunity to work through the problems together.
“She doesn’t want to talk. I’ve tried, but I keep on getting shut out.”
If you feel like talking but your partner or loved one seems to be shutting you out, it is important that you keep trying. You need to respect the other person’s need for privacy but at the same time deal with some of your own issues and concerns. It may be helpful to initiate the conversation by discussing your own feelings in a calm way. You might say: “I’m having a hard time telling family members about your latest test results. Do you feel the same way?” Or you could say, “I couldn’t sleep last night worrying about your appointment. You seemed restless, as well. Are you OK?”
“I’m afraid that I might say the wrong thing.”
If you haven’t dealt with the experience of having cancer, it is normal to feel that you might make an insensitive remark, or deal with an issue in an inappropriate way. The most important thing that a woman with ovarian cancer needs is to hear simple statements of love and concern:
“I love you.”
“I want to be your friend and help you through this.”
“I’m concerned and I want to find out how you are doing. Would it help if you talked about it?”
“I’m not sure if I know what to say, but I’m always here to listen.”
“If I mention ovarian cancer, I might depress her. So I’ll just talk about fun stuff to keep her upbeat.”
Cancer can be an intensely lonely experience. Whatever the outcome, it is a life-altering event and the affected individual will never be the same again. All too often, the person with cancer feels that they need to maintain an upbeat and positive attitude to spare the feelings of others around her. Allowing a person to talk about difficult topics can be a cathartic experience and allows that person to validate her emotions and regain a sense of balance and perspective.
“I don’t like talking about cancer. It makes me feel afraid.”
You don’t need to talk about cancer if you don’t want to. You can simply sit with the person and allow her to talk without saying much or offering your opinion or advice. If you feel uneasy or the conversation develops into subjects that make you feel uncomfortable you can simply state, “I’m not sure that I know much about that, perhaps there’s someone we can call. I’ll look into it.”
© 2013 Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance
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