How do I support my cancer survivor?

hugc Member Posts: 1

Hi all,

I'm new to this community but very happy to have found it. My stepdad was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer in February of this year. After surgery and about 8 months of chemo he has now been deemed "Cancer Free". His last round of chemo was in October. Since he finished, he has gone back for a couple of CEA level test, he had one where his numbers were around 2.9 (he's been told the threshold of normal is 3?) He had no received his results from his most recent CEA test when his doctor asked for a CT Scan, which I have read is quite routine, but he has become so wound up and anxious about it that I'm starting to worry about him.

He has shut down communication wise and is convinced that he still has cancer, he is sullen and in all honesty is behaving as if he has 'given up'. He just seems so angry. He gets so upset when my mother snowblows the driveway and says that he isn't strong enough to do it yet (he has had a bad back for years and truly isn't in snowblowing shape at the moment). It's hard to know what will be able to get through to him.

Is there anything that I can say to him that would help with the fears and anxiety he is living with? It seems like we keep saying the wrong things. The results of the CT Scan could take days/weeks and I'm scared he'll be feeling this way until he hears. 

Any help would be greatly appreciated!




  • thxmiker
    thxmiker Member Posts: 1,278 Member

    Welcome to the board and we are glad you found us also.   We are a group that accepts all.  


    Many have different types of cancer, different locations, and different severitites.   We have different eating habbits, exercise, etc....  Cancer and cancer treatments will affect everyone physically a little different.


    On the mental health side, we all go through the various steps. Some linger more on one step then others.  Fear of the unknown and uncertanty of the future ways on our minds a lot. This is normal.  Tell your dad to talk with others that have been through the cancer journey.  He just needs to go somewhere where he can cry it out.  Yell at a tree or what ever he can do to get over the fear.  Feeling sad or scared are emotions that are misplaced.  He needs to be able to focus on the positive: He survived cancer, he survived Chemo, he still has many years ahead of him, he has a family that cares, etc...


    There are many local groups that offer cancer group meetings to speak with people whom have been through the cancer scare.  Help him find a resource near him or invite him to chat with people here.


    Best Always,  mike

  • Lovekitties
    Lovekitties Member Posts: 3,364 Member
    Dear Christina

    First, let me welcome you to the board where all are welcome and become part of the "family".  As always, we are sorry for the need for this information, but will do our best to help.

    It is "normal" to fear the results of every scan and test, no matter how long one has been "free" of cancer.  You will find most often here that folks refer to being NED...which stands for No Evidence of Disease.  A part of this is that it is always possible for cancer to it is possible that cancer will never return. 

    A diagnosis of cancer changes us forever...patient, caregiver, loved ones.

    CEA 3 and under is considered normal for a non-smoker...5 for a smoker.  It should be noted that the CEA number is not a reliable indicator for all.  It can also be influenced by other things such as infections like the flu or a cold even.  The trending of the CEA over a number of tests, up or down, can be more telling for most in singling a change of cancer's status.  Yet even this is not always accurate.

    You don't mention when the previous CT scan was.  For many, a scan every 3 months during the year post surgery is not unusual.

    It seems the biggest issue now is that your step-dad did not question his doctor about the scan.  It may be routine or it may be that the doctor has a concern.  It is never too late to ask.  Call and find out.  The worry may be for nothing.

    How old is your step-dad?  Does he do "internet"?  If he does, try to convince him to also sign up on this site.  We have folks of all ages, countries, stages of cancer and stages of treatment.  He can express his fears here and know that there are folks who "get it".

    There is no way for you, or him for that matter, to stop the "what if's" or the worry.  What can be done is be supportive of his feelings, encourage him to get as much info as possible on each doc visit so he knows where he stands.  Getting him to limit the amount of time he will give "cancer" daily will help him to participate in the rest of the day.

    We have long term survivors here who are still in the fight who may be able to help him know that life is not over.

    If you have specific questions, please give us as much info as you feel comfortable giving...stage of cancer, age of step-dad, state/country of residence, types of treatments, etc.  Our wide membership may be able to point him to additional resouces.

    I hope that he will recognize that no matter his health, he should not waste a day giving it over to worry or depression or missing out on the life around him.

    Marie who loves kitties


  • Trubrit
    Trubrit Member Posts: 5,800 Member
    Hello and welcome

    It sounds like you are a super caring step daughter. 

    I hope you are able to gleen some info here that can help you with your dad (is it ok for me to drop the step?). 

    As my firends in the previous post said, CEA is not always the best indicator, though your dad's is good. There are folks here with CEA up in the 100's. 

    It is normal to have a CT right after treatment and then three or six months later. Its just a precautionary check and doesn't mean they think something is there. 

    Results can come through really fast too. I get mine the same day becasue I travel 300 miles to my appointments. If your dad's state of mind is such that he is depressed, he or your mum could tell the Doctor and see if he can get the results sent ASAP. 

    Its hard to know what to say to you abuot his depression. Its such a personal thing. I have been lucky, as I'm not the worrying type, so I could say things like 'worrying doesn't help', but I know that won't work. 

    I hope you can find a way to help him through this stressful time. One thing I know you can do is love him through it. Be as patient as you can. Knowing you're loved and understood is such a big thing.

    Keep us posted. 

  • devotion10
    devotion10 Member Posts: 623 Member
    Christina ...

    as a caregiver it is always challenging to know what your loved one needs or is experiencing when they have cancer.  My personal experince is that whatever someone with cancer shares with you ... it is always harder, it is always worse, it is always more painful than those of us who have not had cancer can imagine.  Even with the most empathetic heart, it is just impossible to understand how dark the feelings can be.

    How to support? Listen and accept their dark thoughts. Remember, also that it is their story to tell, it is their life, so should they wish to be silent accept that as well.

    The fact is, your stepdad may understand, if he has done any research regarding colorectal cancer, that it is simply too early to tell if he is cancer free and there is always the possibility that his cancer will return. This is simply the realism of the disease.  What he has right now is a remission and no evidence of disease as a result of his surgery and treatments.  He may remain this way forever ... and he might not.  Some folks seem to want to face that reality and others do better taking a different approach.

    As time goes by, if he remains in a state of no evidence of disease he will likely gain more confidence that he will live and that it is possibly to not only survive, but actually relate to the world in a positive way again.  It sounds like he has been through a great deal in the past year. Anxiety, fear, despair, depression ... in my opinion, all these feelings are acceptable when one has had such an unexpected upheaval in one's life.

    It is said that when folks act the worst .. they need us the most.

    Best of luck to him and your family.  Keep coming back to the board as many will offer their helpful advice and opinions.

    Peace. ~ Cynthia


  • janderson1964
    janderson1964 Member Posts: 2,215 Member
    Try to get him to come here

    Try to get him to come here for help or some sort of cancer support group. Cancer is a very traumatic experience and can be a chronic condition mentally. I believe you have to open up to other survivors for support. It is very much like alcaholics needing AA or ex combat veterans needing help for post traumatic stress disorder. I have heard that cancer survivors suffer from a form of post traumatic stress disorder. It can be really hard when you first stop treatment. It can be very hard to go from having the constant attention of nurses and doctors and tests and treatments to it all abruptly ending and told you are "cancer free" and now you can go back to your life as "normal". You can never really go back to the way it was.

  • YoVita
    YoVita Member Posts: 590 Member
    Others have given you wise advice

    I just want to commend you for caring for your step-dad.  He's lucky to have you in his corner.  

  • Gavin63
    Gavin63 Member Posts: 98 Member
    Hi Christina,
    Welcome to the

    Hi Christina,

    Welcome to the board. You have come to the right place. But sad that you had to. I am fairly new to this forum. I read almost every post on the board though I don’t post much. I suggest that you convince your step dad to join the forum & everyone here is so nice & all out to help with their own experiences. I am sure he will feel good & confident if he joins the board. Wish you & your family a Mary Christmas & a happy New year.