Impact of Diagnosis / Prognosis
Hearing the diagnosis
First of all there is no ‘right' way to feel when you hear the diagnosis of your relative or friend. Everyone will react differently and part of your reaction may depend on what type of information you're given, how much information you're given, and how the information is delivered. Although it will almost certainly be difficult for you it is important to remember that your relative or friend may not be able to support you with your distress but that they need support themselves.
When you're told, if you don't know what to say, that's ok. You can even tell them that you don't know what to say if you would feel comfortable doing so. It is good if you have someone that you can turn to for support for yourself at this time.
Try to avoid saying this like ‘everything will be alright' or ‘you have to be strong and fight this', because this isn't always possible and there is a chance that everything will not be ok.
Your friend or family member may experience intense anxiety when receiving a diagnosis and this can be so overwhelming that they have trouble hearing and retaining the information they're given. This is why, if you can and if they want you to, it is a good idea attend appointments with them to take notes and go through things with them later.
Please see the section for Patients - ‘Coping with diagnosis' to learn a little more about what your relative or friend might be experiencing.
At any time after they have been given a diagnosis of a Brain Tumour there are some things that you should look out for in both yourself and the person with Cancer. These include signs of severe depression or anxiety. Your GP can help you know what to look out for or the Cancer Backup booklet ‘The Emotional Effects of Cancer' has a useful section.
Helpful strategies for coping
Although it may seem normal to be experiencing anxiety and depression there are often techniques or sources of support that can help. Some of the most helpful things might be the support of other family and friends or a support group especially for family and friends of someone with cancer. Some times the simple act of being able to talk about your feelings can be enormously helpful. Other things that might help include complementary therapies such as massage, relaxation, meditation or visualisation, gentle exercise, and maintaining a daily routine as much as possible.
Counselling and Psychology
It may be that you consider seeing a counsellor or psychologist who can help you to explore what is happening, can help with specific problems such as depression or anxiety, or who can help you find a way to adapt to your relative or family member having a brain tumour. It is not wrong for you to seek help and support for yourself. It is also easier for you to support someone if you yourself as properly supported.
These services can typically be accessed through your hospital, your GP or some Cancer Support Services such as Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres or Macmillan Cancer Support.
Support from Maggie's
There are many support services out there and the more you are able to explore them the more likely you will find the one that suits you the best. Some are based in a single geographical location, some can provide people to come to your hole, and some can be accessed on-line.
Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres provide a wide range of courses, support groups and different types of one to one support that you can access in their centres or via the on-line community. Full information can be found on the website: www.maggiescentres.org
This article has been written for BT Buddies by Rachael Brastock, Dimbleby Clinical Psychologist, Maggies Centre (London)