If the cancer returns

A doctor almost never tells a cancer patient, “You are cured.” This is because many cancers have a pattern of remission (no obvious symptoms) and then recurrence. Nevertheless, one always hopes. So hearing that a loved one’s cancer has come back or has spread (metastasized) can be heartbreaking for everyone.

Having gone through the war zone of cancer treatment as a family, you know how difficult it can be. But being a cancer veteran also gives you advantages:

  • You know what assistance helps. Having a meal delivered now and then. Asking a neighbor to take out the bins on trash day. Having someone pick up medicines at the pharmacy. You’ve created a support system before. Time to reengage it.
  • You know what didn’t work well for you. This gives you an opportunity to try other options. Maybe your friends weren’t as supportive as you had hoped they would be. Perhaps you could try an online support group of cancer caregivers.

Depression and anxiety are common reactions for the patient and for family members. Fortunately, these can be treated quite readily. Seek help quickly if you sense the emotional ship is sinking.

You may question whether treatment is the best option. This is an immensely personal decision for your loved one. There is no right or wrong answer. If the decision is to forego treatment, you can get wonderful support from hospice. You don’t have to face this alone.

Even if the recurrence means things are more serious, it does not mean that your days must be filled with hopelessness. Hope simply takes on a different shape. Everyone needs things to look forward to. Help your loved one and other family members focus on simple pleasures, such as visiting with friends, taking a nice stroll, or listening to favorite music.