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2023 Brain Tumour Awareness Month – How to Cope when a Loved One is Diagnosed

-an article submitted by Millie Fuller from Content ‘n’ Coffee

It’s hard to imagine a more devastating diagnosis than being told that you have a brain
tumour. Just 12% of people are alive half a decade post-diagnosis of a malignant growth. The effects of such a diagnosis are far-reaching and devastating, from the physical to the emotional and financial.

Some of the most important people in our lives, the ones we can always count on to be there for us, are family and friends. They’re the people who give us a place to stay when we need it most, who help us when we’re sick, and love us unconditionally. Dealing with a brain tumour diagnosis can be tough on the individual, but it can also be tough on the people around them – it’s so important to have the support of family and friends, but it’s also important to recognise that supporting someone through this experience can be very taxing on you as well.

What Can You Expect Following a Brain Tumour Diagnosis?

Common reactions to a diagnosis

It’s hard to know what to expect when they’re first diagnosed with a brain tumour. They might display a range of emotions, from anxiety to bewilderment and even anger. It’s also very normal for people to feel numb after learning of the diagnosis.

Different people will react in very different ways, and some may need a longer time to process the information.

How their personality may appear to change

There are common personality changes that can occur as a result of having a brain tumour, but the extent of these depends on its size and location.

For example, people often experience confusion, anxiety, mood swings, depression, or even aggression or apathy.

How their thinking and behaviour might change after diagnosis

You may have noticed that their ability to think, remember, and communicate has
changed since they were diagnosed with a brain tumour. These symptoms can be very
frustrating for them and upsetting for you.

Many people with brain tumours experience confusion, difficulty focusing, memory loss and other cognitive problems as a result of their tumour growth or treatment. This can lead to problems at work or school because tasks that were once easy now seem overwhelming.

These symptoms can also make it difficult to maintain relationships and function in a
professional environment.

What physical symptoms might they have

In addition to the cognitive and behavioural changes associated with brain tumours, there are also many physical symptoms that can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. You may find that your loved one experiences headaches, numbness or tingling and seizures. They may find understanding or speaking to you difficult and appear confused. They may also experience balance problems, muscle weakness, or visual disturbances.

How to Support a Family Member or Friend with a Brain
Tumour

Practical assistance for day-to-day tasks

It can be incredibly stressful to be diagnosed with a brain tumour, but there are ways
that friends and family can support.

Even though it seems like a small task, helping with routine things like shopping or cooking meals can significantly improve their quality of life. You might also offer to drive them to their appointments or pick up medications from the pharmacy.

If you’re able to help out with the housework – even if it’s just washing up or vacuuming for a few minutes – that’s another way to make a difference. But don’t be discouraged if your offer is turned down; just let them know you’re available if they need you at any point.

Emotional support and simply being there

When someone is given a brain tumour diagnosis, it’s natural to feel scared and alone.

The most helpful thing you can do for them is offer your support and encouragement. However, being supportive doesn’t mean giving advice or trying to fix things; it means being there to listen, understand, and offer help when asked.

They may be experiencing a lot of emotions – fear, sadness, anger – and not know how to express it. Try to be patient with them and let them know that it’s OK if they don’t want to talk about it right away.

Words of comfort in difficult times

When someone discloses their diagnosis, it can be a lot to take in.

It might feel awkward, but sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit with them and let them know that you’re there for them. If you’re stuck for words, try expressing your empathy by saying something like “I’m sorry you’re going through this” or “I’m here for you.”

You should also avoid making general statements like “you’re brave” or “I know someone who had that.” A specific statement will show that you really care about what they’re going through. For example: “I don’t know what to say but I want you to know that I care about you.”

Caring For You and Your Mental Health

When someone you love is suffering, it can be hard to know how best to support them.

It can be especially difficult if they’re someone you’ve always relied on – a parent or sibling perhaps. It hurts when it’s someone who has always been there for you, who has supported you through thick and thin.

When it comes to providing care for somebody else, both physically and mentally, the caregiver’s mental health usually suffers as a result, yet family caregivers frequently put

others’ needs ahead of their own.

If you find yourself feeling mentally and physically exhausted, know that this isn’t
uncommon. However, if you don’t acknowledge these feelings, it’ll become even harder to deal with them.

It’s normal to feel guilty if you take time out, but taking regular breaks from caring for
others is a must for them and for you.

There are resources available if it becomes too much for you – support can be obtained from counselling, organisations, or your GP (if need be).

Summary

It’s hard to know what to expect after a diagnosis, but knowing what’s ahead can help those affected cope. Family and friends are crucial for ensuring people don’t feel isolated throughout this process. However, it’s important that family or friends don’t shoulder their own grief as well as someone else’s.

Let’s unite in solidarity during Brain Tumour Awareness Month to raise awareness in recognition of those who are waiting for a diagnosis, are living with one, or have already undergone treatment.

References and citation:

https://www.braintumourresearch.org/media/news/news-item/2022/02/09/statistics-reveal-brain-tumours-have-second-worst-survival-rates

https://www.braintumourresearch.org/campaigning/stark-facts

https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/living-with-a-brain-tumour/side-effects/personality-changes/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/brain-tumours/

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-active-listening-3024343

https://www.helpinghandshomecare.co.uk/care-advice/what-is-carer-depression/