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1 in 4 South Africans is affected by cancer. This scary statistic includes the loved ones of those diagnosed – partners, family members, children and friends. For Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to go beyond the physical implications of cancer and bring to light some of the unexpected ways in which cancer can affect other parts of our lives, and the little things we can to do to help lessen its impact.

Have a strong emotional support system

A cancer diagnosis can put heavy emotional strain on friends and family of those diagnosed. Many become closed off as a result of being overwhelmed. It helps to build a strong support system where the one diagnosed, as well as the carer, can talk openly about their feelings. Carers need care too. If you’re the carer, make sure you also have someone to talk to, and try to remain as positive as you can.

Be prepared for unexpected costs

An unexpected illness can come with unexpected costs. These include trips to treatment, healthy food options, accommodation if treatment is far away, and more. The person diagnosed (or the carer) may need to take time off from work. The average sick leave calendar is 30 days. If a person needs more time off, it could result in unpaid leave, bringing further financial pressure. You can offer small contributions to an affected family like buying groceries, cooking a meal or offering to drive them to treatment. Consider getting cancer cover for your family, as it will dramatically reduce the financial strain cancer can have. You’ll make financial stress one less thing to worry about should you or a loved one be diagnosed.

Put your health first

If time off work is needed due to a cancer diagnosis, your career may need to take a step back. Remember that cancer can happen to anyone at any time – whilst you may have plans to change jobs, accept a promotion or start a business, cancer could put them all on hold. This applies to not only the person with cancer, but also the people affected by it. As a carer, you may also need to take time off from work to care for your loved one or you may be too stressed to focus properly on your career. Having honest, open conversations with bosses and colleagues will help ensure there are no misunderstandings, and that everyone understands the full scope of what you are going through.

Be honest and open with family members and friends

Cancer patients need a lot of rest. Long visits from friends and family can be tiring. Be honest and open with your visitors: let them know that a short visit would be best. Many cancer patients or those affected by cancer can withdraw socially after finding out about a diagnosis. There are many other ways to show you care – you can send flowers or a thoughtful message.

Understand that your lifestyle may change

Time is precious when you or a loved one has cancer. There are many ways you can help support a person whose lifestyle has changed as a result of cancer. You could offer to look after their children or do some simple cleaning around their house such as washing the floors, helping with the dishes or doing the laundry. There are also many resources available to both patients and carers such as CANSA and other online forums. Download this useful pamphlet on how you can support a loved one through cancer. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Cancer affects so many different aspects of the diagnosed – and the loved ones of the diagnosed – other than the physical, but many don’t realise this. Stay positive throughout and take time to do light exercises to release endorphins and lift up your mood. Caring for your mental health as a diagnosed or a concerned loved one is extremely important throughout the process.

Share this with someone to keep spreading awareness.



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