Accepting that a loved one has colon cancer isn’t something they teach you at school. Having to digest such news is a never-ending learning curve filled with grief, confusion, and denial.
Immediately, you begin to research about all the possible ways you can save that person from dying. You may begin to even doubt the diagnosis delivered by the professional. Suddenly, your main focus and responsibility is nursing that person back to full health.
Coming to terms with what you CAN and CAN’T do given caregiving commitments can be difficult. You’re only human and sometimes as much as you wish you could do it all, you can’t. Some things are out of your realm.
What type of tasks can do?
As a caregiver, you have one of the most important roles of all : ensuring that whilst your loved one is facing colon cancer, he is comfortable.
It won’t always be easy, but knowing you can provide him with some comfort during this tumultuous time will be such a fulfilling experience for both you and him.
Now, of course there is more to your role as a caregiver and no two people will have the same duties, however as aforementioned, some things are out of your remit and it is essential that you differentiate what you can and can’t do from an early stage.
Setting the responsibilities and boundaries of your role will allow you to feel more confident and satisfied with what you’re doing as you will have a basis to work from.
The foundation of your role is coming from a place of love thus everything you do within that role will come from a good place, whether it is or is not in your capacity to do so. Let’s discuss what the commitments of a caregiver actually are.
The diagnosis of your loved one is very important however the outcome of blood test results and diagnostic tests is not in your control.
Worrying about the side effects of the treatments, will not alleviate the side effects. However, you can equip yourself with knowledge about how to help your spouse offset some of the said side effects.
As much as you want to understand everything that’s going on from a medical point of view, it’s not your responsibility to do this.
It can be so frustrating having to rely on someone else to update you on your loved one’s condition and having to work around their time but unfortunately, they are the experts in this situation.
To help with this, try and build a rapport with the healthcare professionals, they’ve worked with many people and maybe can provide you with some useful tips from their perspective.
Granted, the health care system may have flaws, however, now is not the time to single handedly attempt to amend them all. Focus your energy on your loved one. In the long run, you’ll be grateful that you dedicated your time to them and not to other causes.
Now although that seems like a lot of things that are out of your control, there are also a lot of things you can do that are in your control.
For example, you are able to ask for help whenever you need it from those around you. You may not want to be a burden, however, you’ll find people will be more willing to help than you think.
Remember only you know how you would like to be helped so reach out and share your thoughts and expectations with those around you.
Although it will be hard, try and practice gratitude. Be grateful for the experiences you have shared with your loved one, their life and the impact they have made on the world and on yourself.
With gratitude, you will be able to remember the good in your life during this tough time and put things into perspective. And finally, make sure you are taking care of yourself. You are no use to anyone if you are not at your best.
Ensure you take some time out to do things you enjoy by yourself and also with your loved one, your family etc. Small moments of joy, create memories that you will forever be grateful for.
Responding vs Reacting
You can only control what you do and how you respond to the actions of others. That is all. You can’t control the actions of others, or how others respond to you. That is out of your jurisdiction.
Your mental state of mind takes precedence in your everyday tasks more than you realize. If your mental health is deteriorating, this will have a negative effect on all other areas of your lives.
If you have challenges relinquishing control of the things that are out of your capacity it can potentially lead to a plethora of detrimental things happening to your health such as overthinking, anxiety and burnout.
Can you limit burnout?
One way to limit anxiety and burnout is by practicing emotional acceptance. We are usually told that the only way we can rid of negative or stressful thoughts is by thinking positively.
However, positive thinking doesn’t remove your negative thoughts but only masks them. Once you accept what you can and can’t do, allow yourself to also experience the emotions that come with it and plan what to do moving forward.
This is more effective than suppressing the emotion as whatever we suppress only comes back up another time.
Rephrasing your to-do list
Once you have established what you can control, make sure that the items on your list contain a physical verb e.g. go to the pharmacy to pick up medication. If you can’t find a concrete verb, this can help determine that whatever you’re trying to do is beyond your control.
Remember you have not failed your loved one if you can’t do it all. He will understand that you are trying your best. Granted, at times he may lash out or seem as if he is angry or upset but remember he is suffering and at times feels helpless.
So his feelings will get misdirected to those that are closest to him such as yourself. Try not to take it personally and continue to support him the best that you can. You are doing an amazing job, so well done!