Things to keep in mind while taking care of a cancer patient

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Things to keep in mind while taking care of a cancer patient

Posted on : Saturday 28th of October 2017

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Sympathy - we tend to give it for free. Until something happens to us or our loved ones. While we do continue to pray for a friend's mother who got cancer, it is even more difficult to just rely on The Almighty when it comes to your own. My mother was detected with breast cancer early last month. That's when I realised that cancer care requires much more than sympathy.

When I took my mother to the hospital, there were many women, older and younger, suffering from this terrible disease. They say age is no bar for cancer. The doctors and nurses will give you a set of instructions, a piece of paper to take care of your cancer patient, but it requires so much more than that.

It is not as scary as it sounds, and no the world has not ended yet. But you need to go a step ahead from sympathy and empathy when it comes to taking care of a cancer survivor. While you do feel sad and confused about why it happened to your father, mother, brother, sister, or anyone who is dear to you, this is the time you need to pull up your socks. Because it is not going to be easy, physically or emotionally.

A cancer patient and a survivor is at an extremely delicate stage pre-and post-surgery. Before the surgery, the thoughts of 'why it happened to me' prevails. But it is actually after the surgery that the real challenge starts. Chemotherapy and radiation are not injections on your bum kind of treatment. It is hundreds of injections multiplied by infinite pain with an emotional and physical drain. Therefore, you as a caretaker need to be strong to keep them going.

Due to the treatment, cancer patients tend to be moody and can have emotional outbursts. It is because the kind of pain they feel cannot be explained in words. You need to be extra careful of what can cause them possible stress. Try taking them for a walk, or take them for an ice cream or any activity they like. Ensure that they do not get mentally drained. Being a cancer patient does not mean they need to be confined to their homes and in a four-walled room. My mother has attended weddings, parties, gatherings, and even went to work when she first got it. Diverting their attention from their pain as much as you can, will help them and you.

Chemotherapy, radiation, hundreds of multi-coloured medicines will make them feel nauseous and they may say no to food. Try breaking up their meals. Do not force feed them but do not let them go hungry for hours. Their body requires energy and nutrients to produce healthy cells. This is because during chemotherapy and radiation, these cells are attacked, which makes them extremely weak. If they do not wish to have food, give them nimbu paani, rose syrup drink, or chaach. If they eat two rotis usually, try giving them only one at that time, give the second one in an hour's time.

Keep a water bottle with them at all times. They need water for hydration and for transport of nutrients. They can even mix any flavour syrup if they like or have coconut water as well. Do not keep feeding them khichdi, thinking it is our traditional sick food. They can eat all kinds of food. Please remember to keep this food low on spices and oils. Dals, subzis and curds are extremely nutritious for them.

Since chemotherapy and radiation are extremely harsh treatments, they take a lot from a person's body. Remember to load up their plate with proteins through the day. Proteins are essential for growth. If they are vegetarians, you can give them chaach, paneer, nuts, yoghurt, besan, sattu, chickpeas. If they can have eggs, give them two eggs every day.

Being the caretaker of a cancer patient can be tough and can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. At a time like this, you need to understand that your patient requires you and your strength. Taking out time for yourself can be difficult, but you need to do this, at least once in a month.

It is natural to feel overwhelmed, burdened or even super stressed while being a caretaker. It is important to have a person you can talk to about how you feel. Again, all of this may sound very easy, and while reading this you may be feeling that it is like taking care of someone who has fever. But the trauma cancer can leave on the patient and their family is severe. A cancer patient cannot be stressed at any given time as it can lead to the production of excess cortisol in their body, another bad sign for them while undergoing treatment.

If you are someone who works, do not leave it. It will help you take your mind off things. If you just cannot leave home, try opting for work from home. But stick to the activity which keeps your mind diverted and active. If you like to jog like me, go for it. Do not stop your daily activities. This way even your cancer patient won't feel anything is different. They need to understand that even a cancer patient can lead a normal life and that crying about what happened to them will not help at any given stage.

None of us is prepared to take care of a cancer patient, but take things one step at a time. Do not be afraid of what is coming your way because it is scarier for your cancer patient. Trying to put yourself in their shoes is difficult, but a cancer patient needs your time, attention and love to heal. Only treatment and therapy won't help.

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