According to the American Cancer Society, cancer has replaced heart disease as the leading cause of death among U.S. Hispanics. But no one can predict that they will have cancer – especially when it happens to their parents. It never is good to see a loved one hurt, but there are many things you can do to help you cope with them.
Latinas and Cancer
Recent studies have shown cancer to be a bit more prominent among Latina women. A 2007 study by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, compared the effects of breast cancer between Hispanic and non- Hispanic women with equal health care (Kaiser Permanente Colorado health plan). The study noted that “the results of this study confirm those of many previous studies that breast cancer presents differently in Hispanic women.”
The American Association for Cancer Research Conference in Carefree, Arizona had conducted early research in 2005 that shows 2/3’s of breast cancer in Hispanic women is discovered accidentally. Only 28 percent of Hispanic women have the means to check themselves though a mammography or clinical exams.
Iesha Romo, nursing student at the University of Texas at Brownsville, shared how her classes have showed her that Hispanic men and women are more likely to develop illnesses like diabetes and cancer. She said that through her clinical experiences as a student, she has been a witness to families of loved ones that are “hurt by the sight of being in a hospital.” Romo believes that “there is really no way to prepare yourself for when you have a sick parent. When it happens, only you will know how to best deal with it.”
Dealing with Cancer
The number one worry for parents is their children. When a parent is diagnosed with cancer it may bring stress for their children. You can help lessen these feelings of stress, anger or worry by letting your parents know how you are feeling. Hiding your feelings will not make everything okay. Don’t be afraid to ask your parent questions about their condition. Let them know you care and that you’ll be there for them.
Don’t blame yourself!
Never blame yourself for what they’re going through. It’s important for you to know that nothing at all is your fault. Ask questions and be updated with what’s going on. Make sure you understand how they feel also. Sometimes things look worse than they really are.
One of the biggest questions you might have is the extent of your parents’ illness. Familiarize yourself with all this information by asking to speak with their doctors or someone who can professionally inform you about their diagnosis and treatment. Don’t be afraid to go up to the doctor and ask what it means that your parent has ‘cancer.’ Ask them how it developed, and how it has affected your parent. What are they going to have to do differently? What can you do to help them? Doctors might also refer you to pamphlets, websites, and support groups as well.
It’s OK to Worry
It is evident that sometimes thoughts of worry might take over because your parent is sick. It is OK to worry. Try to talk to someone about these feelings. Confide in your friend, teacher, or counselor. No one knows how you are feeling – only you. And sadly, people who have never had to watch a loved one be diagnosed with cancer will not know how you feel. It is important to talk about what your feelings – whether it is anger, hurt, or confusion, because these emotions have the power to threaten your well being. Soon enough, these thoughts can take over your outlook on life, causing you to slowly detach yourself from your friends, family, and things you treasure in life. It is important to understand what you are feeling and that you are not to blame.
Keep Up with Your Daily Routine
Stay connected with your friends and keep up with school. Go back to your daily routine and don’t worry about having ‘too much fun or smiling or laughing while your parent has cancer. Sometimes it’ll make them feel better to see you enjoying life. Abby Mora, third year student at the Texas State University, believes that if a Latina faces the reality of a sick parent, “You have to realize that you have the power to help your parent, supporting them financially and emotionally.”
Take time to discover what you need and don’t let others tell you how you should be feeling. Really taking time to figure out what lifts your spirits during these tough times can make coping with the illness of a loved one a lot easier. Keep your head up, and remember that you are not alone!