Posted 6 days ago

Like A Rock

Most families have a member who seem to have it all together. They are the one who organizes family events and are the first to bring the food to those in need. Family members seek them first for sound advice and the strong one rarely asks for support even when in need. When the “rock” in the family faces a cancer diagnosis, the impact can be profound and multifaceted. Because they have been a pillar of strength for others, this individual may struggle with the vulnerability that may come with their own illness.

Internal Conflict

The strong one is used to being the caregiver, not the receiver. Accepting help can feel like a loss of control or a sign of weakness, leading to internal conflict and stress. They may grapple with the need to maintain their stoic facade while coping with their own fears and uncertainties internally.

Reluctance to Burden Others

Concerned about being a burden, they may downplay their needs or avoid sharing their struggles with family and friends. Some simply do not believe their family members can cope with the reality of the situation. This reluctance can lead to feelings of isolation, making the emotional journey even more challenging.

Role Reversal

Family dynamics can shift dramatically. The strong one might find it difficult to adjust to being on the receiving end of care. This role reversal can create tension and confusion within the family as everyone adapts to new responsibilities and emotional landscapes. Sometimes the cancer patient is shocked or angered at the difficulty of others to be strong for them. Something that comes so easily for them may not come easily for others in their family and friend circles.

Redefining Strength

Ultimately, the strong one must recognize that true strength lies in vulnerability and seek support when needed. Sometimes they will need to be direct regarding their needs. By allowing others to step up, they create a more resilient support system, benefitting everyone involved.

Need for Emotional Expression

It’s crucial for the strong one to find safe spaces to express their emotions. Bottling up feelings can be detrimental to one’s mental health which can be tied one’s physical health and ability to heal. Sometimes it’s beneficial to look outside one’s circle of family and friends to develop a support network. Counseling, support groups, or journaling can provide necessary outlets for emotions. Ironwood Integrative Oncology and Supportive Care Services can link you to these avenues of support. We provide classes, groups and information for patients and family members navigating through a cancer diagnosis. Call 480-278-7000 or email wellness@ironwoodcrc.com for more information on ways we may help you.


Jodi Puhalla, BSW

Social Worker for East Valley Offices

Jodi Puhalla obtained her social work degree from MN State University/Moorhead in 1990. She has spent most of her career as a medical social worker in hospitals, long term care facilities and hospice care.

Jodi is a native of Minnesota and moved to the Phoenix area in 2020. She has a passion for holistic healing and meditation. She likes to explore ancient practices for stress management in the modern world. She enjoys supporting others through difficult transitions in their lives.