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Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian Cancer: Helping Caregivers
Communicate and Cope
By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 4)

Teresa Combs, mother of three, lives in Granbury, TX and is an ovarian cancer survivor. She was 23 years old when first diagnosed with the disease. When questioned about her experience, she said, “I wish my caregivers had been more educated. I also wish I had been more educated about ovarian cancer. There are so many things we know now that weren’t available when I had cancer.”

Combs is not alone. Ovarian cancer has been a mystery to many, although since it is the eighth most likely form of cancer to strike women, it shouldn’t be. It also has the unfortunate “claim to fame” of being fifth on the list of most likely to cause female cancer-related deaths.

Ovarian cancer may be difficult for many people to discuss. Experts say one reason is that caregivers have a natural protective tendency, feeling that the more the cancer is discussed the more stress it causes.

Opening the Lines of Communication:

There’s no doubt that a cancer diagnosis is difficult and stressful. It is important to keep the lines of communication open so that the caregiver is aware of what the patient is thinking and feeling. At the same time, caregivers need to encourage the patient to discuss feelings when they arise, while respecting the need for personal space.

Recognizing that negative emotions will arise can help both the patient and the caregiver. For example, the patient may need reassurance that it is OK to feel sad or frustrated. Expression of those emotions is, in fact, healthy and encourages the patient to continue releasing feelings that can adversely affect her health if they are otherwise “bottled up.”

Other ways to keep communication flowing smoothly include

  • Encouraging your loved one to keep a journal

  • Setting aside time each day or week for sharing about issues that may have arisen

  • Learning basic relaxation techniques to keep tension and stress low

  • Seeking out support groups and additional resources for both patients and caregivers so each have opportunities for “venting” to individuals who understand the situation

  • Studying facts and figures about ovarian cancer and staying abreast of the latest scientific studies


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