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          When Cancer Strikes the Family

          September 30, 2002

          Dr. Phil believes that when a member of the family gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. It affects everyone, and Dr. Phil has advice on how to cope:

        • Accept that your loved one is not invincible. When a parent or authority figure becomes ill, it can be difficult to see them in a vulnerable state ” especially if they have always played the role of caretaker.
        • If you are the one who is ill, don’t make light of the situation because you don’t want your family to worry. You are not “giving in” to the disease by allowing your loved ones to visit and express their love and support. Your family is the greatest support system you have.
        • Understand that it’s OK to be afraid, and resist the impulse to replace fear with anger. When faced with terminal illness, being frightened is normal. But we think that if we admit to being afraid, it will consume us ” so we turn to anger and lash out at one another instead of turning to one another for support.
        • Focus on the real enemy ” cancer ” not your loved ones. If you are angry with a family member because of the way he or she is handling the diagnosis, you are not dealing with the real issue. People express grief differently. Don’t be upset because someone is dealing with the pain in a way you don’t like.
        • If you are having difficulty letting go of your anger, ask yourself what you will gain by staying angry. How much will “being right” in this argument mean after your loved one is gone?
        • Say the things that need to be said before your loved one passes. When they’re gone, they’re gone forever, so don’t let fear and judgment prevent you from expressing the things that you will regret not having said.

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