Providing Comfort Through Crisis with a Disability

Selfie of Jeffrey VanDyke

By Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphic Design Specialist

Nothing is worse than hearing that someone you love has cancer. It’s even harder when it’s your parent. As children, we typically see our parents as strong and invincible. When they get sick, it’s tough. Your roles may reverse, and you may have to start caring for your parent as they battle this disease. One way this reversal may become even more difficult than typically thought of though is when you, yourself live with a disability which can (or does) prevent you from caring for loved one in the way you hope.

For me, this fear became a reality in December of 2018 when my mother was suddenly diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. This outcome can not only affect you emotionally, but leave you feeling mentally down as well… feelings of sadness or as if your not doing enough as a whole. All of these thoughts, while negative and untrue, are uncontrollable but I want to provide a little insight on how you can in fact STILL contribute on the front-line of your loved ones battle against cance, even if you can’t help in every way you’d like.

1.Treat them to luxuries:
Helping your parent may be as easy as offering a haircut, manicure/pedicure, massage or getting their favorite meal. Whether it’s done by you or a licensed therapist is up to you. If your mother is the one battling cancer, give her a manicure or pedicure. These small luxuries and the time you spend together will be something you and your parent come to cherish.

2. Be a good note taker
The thought of cancer can be overwhelming and every doctor’s meeting can feel like information overload… designating one person to attend doctor appointments with the patient can help relieve some of this anxiety.

3. Strive to try to be patient with siblings/parent’s significant other
Remember that everyone is different. You and others around you will each cope with the cancer diagnosis and its effects in different ways. Some may keep emotions locked away inside; others will need ways to let emotions out. Rather than cause additional stress on your parent by constantly fighting with your relatives try to be as patient as possible.

4. Read/share stories of support
A parent who has cancer may be very emotional and need the support and inspiration of other cancer patients and survivors. Sit down with your parent and look through blogs and websites that share the amazing stories of other people who are dealing with the same or similar diagnosis.

5. Don’t forget YOU
Once a parent is officially diagnosed… the chain of events can sometimes start to move quickly. Appointments, surgeries, tests, etc. it’s overwhelming. Not just for the patient, but the patient’s inner circle as well. It’s easy to lose yourself in the struggle, but your self-care must be a priority. Remember to brush your teeth, take a shower, go out with friends, and cry if you need too. Parents (parental figures) are always important, but there’s a different vibe when that individual has always been your caregiver. It’s not selfish to wonder or worry about what might happen to you, should the individual’s condition suddenly worsen. Just because a parent becomes ill, does not mean you’re doing something wrong by continuing to live.

Cancer is a terrible, no-good and often mentally exhausting condition, which not only affects the person living with the condition inside of themselves, but everyone else within that environment as well. It’s important if you find yourself on the outside that you remember that just because you cannot contribute to the battle in every way does not mean that you cannot contribute in some way. Your life is just as important to the individual battling Cancer as it always has been… even on those days when it feels like you aren’t. Please take time to remind yourself of this.