Ovarian cancer affects everyone in the family as well as your network of close friends – and they may all react differently. The people closest to you may experience a range of emotions similar to yours including anger, sadness, denial, fear, anxiety, guilt, loneliness and simply feeling overwhelmed.
The people close to you have the challenge of wanting to be strong for you while dealing with their own sense of shock. Some relationships will become stronger through the challenges you face. Value these relationships and the closeness you can enjoy together. Other people may not be able to cope with your cancer, and you may grow apart from these friends.
For some people, there is a period of adjustment where they don’t know the right things to say or do. As they adjust to your news, they may want to reach out and help.
Communicate as honestly and openly as you can so your family and friends know how you are feeling and what you need. When you lead the way, others realise they also have permission to share their feelings and needs.
Family and friends of women with ovarian cancer need to know:
- How important they are to the woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer
- How to communicate and what they can do to help
- What not to do
- How to care for themselves during this difficult time
There was an outpouring of love, sometimes from the most unexpected quarters – friends and family really wanted to help. Some people couldn’t cope and backed away for a time, so I focused on those who could show me support and allowed myself to lean on them.” – Julie
You can find detailed supportive information and practical tips for family, friends and carers in the Support chapter of our Resilience Kit.
Ovarian Cancer Australia’s online forum, OCA Connect, has a section for family and friends to share their personal stories and useful information with one another in a secure online environment. This is a great place to get connected with people in a similar situation without the formalities and in the comfort of your own home. Ovarian Cancer Australia encourages all family and friends of women with ovarian cancer to register for the online forum and to ask one another questions and learn from one another how you can better support your loved one and yourself.
Talking to children about cancer
When a parent or grandparent has cancer, children often guess something is wrong, even if they’re not quite sure what it is. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect children of any age from upsetting news. But by talking to children as soon as possible, you will help to allay many of their fears and help them to cope better.
If you don’t feel able to tell your children by yourself, you may like to ask your partner, a grandparent or another loving relative or friend to help.
How much you tell your children will depend on their age, but all children need to know that:
- They did not cause your cancer and they can’t make it go away
- Cancer is not contagious: they cannot catch it by touching you or being close to you
- You are going to have treatment and your doctors are going to do everything they can to help you get well
- It is ‘normal’ to have side effects from treatment – like feeling tired and losing your hair
- Life at home will be different, but they will always be cared for and you will always love them
Encourage your children to ask questions and then do your best to answer them simply and honestly. Tell your children how you are feeling and encourage them to express their own feelings and concerns.
As time goes on, new questions, situations and feelings will arise. Keep your children updated on what’s happening, even if they don’t ask.
If you are worried about your children and how they are coping, talk to your doctor or a social worker in your treatment team. There are many different types of trained counsellors who can help.