Helping Children When a Family Member has Cancer: Understanding Psychosocial Support Services

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Why do some people need extra help while others don’t seem to?

Some people refuse to get professional help for emotional or family problems, no matter what their needs may be. In their eyes it’s just not an option. They feel that needing help means that they are weak or that it’s a sign they are unstable or even “crazy.” The American culture tends to value independence or “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” Sometimes this attitude may cause more harm than good.

If you try to compare yourself with others, it may seem to you that some people sail through cancer and its treatment without much stress or strain. Keep in mind, though, that you may not know what they are really going through, or even if they got help for their problems. But some people are their own worst critics and have thoughts like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I not tougher?” While we all may have a need to feel independent at times, there are other times in our lives when it’s hard to feel tough or to even feel good about anything. It’s important to give ourselves permission to need and get help.

A person’s ability to handle stress depends on many things. Some of these are related to our genetic make-up and physical factors, like the effects of hormones and medicines on our bodies. Our basic personality doesn’t change a great deal as we grow, but it is affected by our life experiences. Other important factors are our relationships with other people, especially our parents and siblings, our unique culture, our education, intelligence, our spiritual path, career success, finances, gender or sexual identity, and our physical and mental health. Human beings are complex and no two people react the same way to life’s experiences.

Sometimes knowing more about the cancer and its treatment will help you cope. Think of learning about your illness and your emotional responses as equally important. It’s all just part of the package of dealing with your cancer with success. To look at it another way, it’s part of your training in completing the cancer marathon. But any champion runner has a team supporting him or her. Struggling alone makes the whole race more difficult and painful than it should be. Give yourself the benefit of other people’s experiences and insights so that you can approach your situation with support and hope.

Last Medical Review: 08/09/2012
Last Revised: 08/09/2012