#BloodCancerAwarenessMonth Q&A: "My family makes fun of my 'woo woo' alternative treatments. URG!"

Over the years, I've received thousands of emails about Bald in the Land of Big Hair, a memoir about my experience with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A cancer diagnosis brings a firestorm of questions, and as a survivor, I can sympathize, but I'm not an expert; many times I just don't have the answers. So this year during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I've asked Ashley Rodgers (Masters in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling), to respond to some FAQs about the emotional and psychological aspects of the cancer journey. 

Q: After a year of remission, my cancer is back. I want to investigate alternative and naturopathic treatments instead of more chemo and radiation. My family tells me I'm an idiot. They're constantly on my case to abandon this "stupid, suicidal" belief system. I really need their support right now. How do I get them on my side?

Ashley says: The news of your cancer returning can be scary, not only for you, but for your family as well. It seems to me that your family just wants you to be healthy; therefore they pressure you to take the most widely accepted route of medical treatment. This is significantly reinforced if that is what put the cancer in remission in the past. Chemotherapy can be difficult to endure as the patient and they may not understand your reasons why you would want to try an alternative form of treatment.

In order to “get them on your side,” I would suggest fully communicating to them your desire for an alternative treatment. Their fear likely stems from the possibility that the alternative methods will not be successful like the previous treatments. Help shed light on the methods you are looking into, the process you want to take, and your desire to be healthy, too.

In situations like this, I believe medical family therapy would be an ideal option to help facilitate the conversation and reinforce the support you are wanting from them. Medical Family Therapy can help you convey what your goals and feelings are to your family but can also include your doctor or naturopathic treatment provider in the conversation.

Medical family therapy is a counseling environment that includes the mental health counselor, you, your treatment provider and your family members. The counselor helps facilitate the conversation between all parties involved. This helps to get everyone on the same page and working toward the same goals. By doing so, the treatment plan typically runs more smoothly and the patient and family members feel more emotionally connected and supported.

The bottom line is in order to have your family support your medical treatment choices, and they are your choice to make, you need to share with them as much as you can. Tell them what option(s) you have chosen, what to expect from that treatment, and what you need from them to get through it all.

For a more detailed description of what Medical Family Therapy is and what you can expect, read more from Stages Family Therapy, LLC here: http://www.stagesfamilytherapy.com/stages-services/medical-family-therapy.

We welcome your questions and comments.

*No part of this blog or the book Bald in the Land of Big Hair should be misconstrued as or substituted for medical advice.

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