Someone diagnosed with pancreatic cancer may experience strong feelings of fear and uncertainty. Often, a patient’s worries intensify when thinking about how their family will cope with a cancer diagnosis. Although it may be difficult, it is important for patients to talk honestly with their family about their diagnosis.
“Talking about cancer is difficult. Even people who are strong communicators may have difficulty talking about cancer because the subject involves intense feelings,” said Nicole Lise Feingold, MA, director of Patient Services at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). “Effective communication is hard work, requiring patience, practice, honesty and listening while being supportive. To manage a diagnosis like cancer, excellent communication is key.”
Caregivers: Communicating with Your Loved One
Intense emotions can affect even the strongest of relationships. Inevitably, there will be inconsistencies in the mood of the patient. At times, they may have the energy to communicate and discuss their ailments, and other times, they may be too weak to communicate. During these times, it’s important to take cues from them.
If communication becomes too challenging, seek the help of professionals to discuss difficult topics. PanCAN Patient Services can also be a helpful resource for you.
Attend doctor’s appointments with your loved one. Being there for support will help your loved one on this journey. This can also be a time for both of you to ask the healthcare team questions.
A pancreatic cancer diagnosis will require a patient to make tough treatment decisions. In these situations, it’s imperative to support your loved one through all decisions, whether you agree or not.
“Support the person every day in the best way that you can,” said Marilyn Saxton, a member of PanCAN’s Survivor & Caregiver Network. “Remember, it is their cancer, so whatever method of treatment that person chooses is the patient’s personal decision and must be supported.”
Talking to Children about Cancer
Age plays an important role in how a family talks about pancreatic cancer. It may be difficult for children to understand what having pancreatic cancer means. When communicating about a cancer diagnosis with a child under the age of 8, it usually isn’t necessary to share detailed information.
Older children and teenagers, however, need to know more. When breaking the news of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, it’s important to keep honest lines of communication open. Keep your children and loved ones informed and updated throughout your treatment process.
PanCAN Patient Services can provide resources about how to help children cope with cancer in the family. In general, reassure children of all ages that no matter what, they will be loved and cared for. Also, be honest and concise: the most important thing to communicate is your willingness to be honest.