THE BLOG
10/08/2013 07:00 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

How Cancer Affects Your Family Emotionally

This blog is my homage to the co-survivors and caregivers in our lives. I'm sure there are many definitions of the term "co-survivor" out there but they are the family and friends who are there with you through it all. Of course as the cancer patient you have the hardest job in the fight for your life but your family and friends are facing the possibly of losing you. Whether it's your parents who face losing a child, a spouse who faces losing their partner or children who face losing a parent. I first saw the term in a magazine years ago and as I read it I had an a-ha moment. Of course I knew that my family and friends were also going through a tough time during my treatment but hearing the term co-survivor really gave them the respect they deserve.

I've found that the emotional impact of what we went through as a family goes years beyond treatment. I'm four years cancer free but at least two years into remission sometimes we would talk about things as if I had just ended treatment. I would catch my husband telling someone that my hair was starting to grow back (it had already been back for awhile). I would hear my mom tell family members that we would work the holidays around how I felt (even though I was back to my normal fatigue level of having two young kids and not the debilitating fatigue of chemo). I'm not a therapist but I suspect it's because they saw me every day and were so deeply affected by what I went through as well that it took them awhile to be able to say that I was OK again.

A cancer diagnosis changes your life and the lives of the people who love you. The emotional impact can be felt for years to come (I'm four years into remission and we all still have issues that creep up). My children were seven and three at the time of my diagnosis and treatment. They didn't understand much at the time and my son (who is younger) seems to have thankfully been spared from a lot of it. My daughter on the other hand I see the emotional effects of cancer on her now. Now she realizes that I could have died and now she's become somewhat of a hypochondriac about disease. Even a little cold makes her nervous. These issues cropped up for her after my treatment ended. I think it's because at the time you're all just trying to get through the situation and if you're lucky enough to come out on the other side that's when they really start to show themselves.

All my children knew was that the mommy who was normally doing everything suddenly had to lie down in the middle of the day and she looked very different with no hair. My son would tell me to take my hat off when I would wear my wig and my daughter would ask me to wear my wig if I went to her school so that the other kids wouldn't think I looked different.

Therapy has helped us tremendously as a family. So if you or someone you know is struggling with your diagnosis or if like me you're on the other side and seeing issues crop up, don't be afraid to get the emotional help that you or your family member needs.