A diagnosis of cancer can be quite a shock. It may take time to accept the news and be ready to talk about it. Family, friends, health professionals and/or special support services and provide support and care for people with cancer.
For the main carer, family and supporters, it’s important to be positive and sensitive to the feelings of the person with the cancer. There can’t be too much understanding and love – though sometimes a person with cancer may not want to be overwhelmed or pitied.
As new screening programs and better treatments develop, many of them thanks to clinical trials, more people are surviving GI cancers.
Whether you’re someone with a GI cancer, or caring for someone with cancer, try to inform yourself and your family about its symptoms, treatments, new research and ways of coping. Your doctor or pharmacist can give you advice about managing medicines. You can talk to the treatment team about monitoring symptoms and side effects, and an occupational therapist can advise you on any changes to your home. You may be eligible for financial assistance through the Department of Human Services.
Not everything you find out will apply to the person you’re caring for. New trials or treatments may apply to some cancer types but not others. Keep discussing what you read with your medical team.
Caring can be rewarding, but it can also be physically and emotionally difficult. If you are a carer, it’s important to look after your own health and wellbeing.
Supporting the main carer
The spouse, partner or other main carer for a person with GI cancer can sometimes try to take the whole weight of the illness on their shoulders.
Having a family member with GI cancer may mean changes to the family routines – especially to make sure no single person is left carrying the whole burden. Kids can take on extra chores and help prepare simple healthy meals. Friends and neighbours may be able to pick something up at the shop or help with transport.
The most important message is: if you’re struggling to cope, call for help – from family, friends or professionals.
This can offer a good chance for all members of the family to work through the emotions and problems that arise with experiencing cancer or caring for someone with cancer.
Ask your medical team to refer you to family counselling services.
Or try your state/territory department of community services or human services, or contact Relationships Australia: relationships.org.au or tel. 1300 364 277
Stories of caring for someone with cancer
Click on the names below to read the stories of carers for people with GI cancer reflecting on their experiences.
Looking for tips on how you can help family and friends living with cancer? Click here to download the brochure.