A cancer diagnosis is an earth-shattering event, not just for patients, but for family members as well. Following the news, those with the disease as well as their loved ones them will likely face complex emotions, lifestyle changes and other drastic shifts.
As a cancer survivor himself, Jeff Ber knows firsthand the ways in which a cancer diagnosis can upend a patient’s world and turn life upside-down for friends and family. After defeating testicular cancer, he was empowered to continue helping those who struggle with it. Ber currently serves as the Vice President of Oneball, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting those who are currently facing the challenges and turmoil that comes with battling the disease.
Of course, no amount of planning or foresight can prepare individuals or their family for a cancer diagnosis — but Jeff Ber believes that being aware of how the disease’s impacts can help cancer patients and their families move forward with courage. Based on his personal experience, here’s how cancer impacts both the individual and their family.
How Cancer Impacts the Individual
When Jeff Ber first received the news that he had testicular cancer, he felt as any newly diagnosed cancer patient would: afraid, anxious and even angry. In the days and months following his diagnosis, he struggled to navigate his new reality, renegotiating his life and his worldview.
For those who have recently began a cancer journey, Jeff Ber emphasizes the importance of accepting your emotions as they arise in order to move through them. At this highly turbulent time, seek encouragement whenever possible. Reach out to those you love and accept emotional support. As you continue on your journey, your mental and emotional health is just as vital as your physical well being, so make persistent efforts to take care of yourself holistically.
How Cancer Impacts the Spouse
Of all the family members, it is perhaps the husband, wife or significant other who is most profoundly impacted by a cancer diagnosis. While the structure and functioning of all relationships are different, it’s likely that the brunt of new responsibilities and emotional strain will fall on the partner’s shoulders, increasing their stress and challenging their mental well being.
While most relationships are ideally two-way streets on which both partners equally support each other, the spouse of a newly diagnosed cancer patient will likely find themselves providing more emotional support and assisting with more day-to-day physical activities than they were previously accustomed to.
When it comes to the health of the relationship itself, some couples will struggle to navigate within their new roles, putting additional strain on the inner workings of the relationships. Others, however, find that the new challenges and difficulties strengthen their connection, improving the health of their relationship. Regardless of your specific relationship plays out beneath the new weight of a cancer diagnosis, Jeff Ber advocates for the importance of transparent communication within couples, which can bolster the relationship’s well being by reducing anxiety and tension.
How Cancer Impacts Children
So much of how a child responds to their parent’s cancer diagnosis will depend on age. While younger children are more likely to struggle to understand what’s happening, older children (such as teens) often act out with anger or may turn toward other impulsive behavior. Of course, each child is unique, and how they respond to their parent’s diagnosis will be equally distinct.
Regardless of the children’s ages, however, Jeff Ber highlights the importance of taking the time and initiative to educate them on the disease, taking care to address their questions and give one-on-one guidance.