Chemotherapy affects more than cancer patients

A cancer diagnosis involves the whole family but having a strong support system makes staying positive easier


Photo courtesy of Lori Vincent

Vincent poses with his chemo nurse. He held up five fingers to represent how many treatments he’s received since Jan. 2019.

Kortney Huggins, Staff Writer

After a family member is diagnosed with cancer, the family can struggle to rationally process their emotions. A few coping mechanisms may include talking to someone, writing in a journal or simply just not talking about it. The school supports these students by providing a school social-worker and counselors.

“Sometimes a school counselor will take the lead, if not myself, in calling the student in. We don’t have to but we generally like to because we want to be helpful and see what we can do. Just to provide support,” Seth Portwood, school social worker, said.

When students are receiving help, they will schedule times to come in that way they do not become overwhelmed.

“Toward the end of the conversation, we will ask the student if they want to be called up on a regular basis or if they want to come when they want to talk. Some kids just want to come when they need to and some want to schedule for once a week or month,” Portwood said.

According to Portwood, on average, during the year, four or five students family members will be diagnosed with a form of cancer. Portwood and the team of counselors are well-educated on how to help students through tough situations.

Some cancer survivors say that their families support helped get them through the tough times. The family of the patient can be unsure of what they can do to help, but to some patients, it is just the small things that make the biggest difference.

Photo courtesy of Lori Vincent
Lori Vincent’s notebook containing information from appointments to treatment options. The Vincents attended an informational class so they are always prepared.

“We [family] would drive her [aunt] to her appointments and make sure that her kids had somewhere to stay because her husband still had to work. Sometimes we would stay at her house and make dinners and stuff like that so that she could rest after chemo,” Kierstin Wall, junior, said.

Battling cancer is difficult to do, but having a strong support system to rely on is what gets some patients through the bad days. Chemo and radiation are toxic to the body, and they can make a person sick and fatigued.

“I feel like she [great-grandmother] fought so hard because she knew that we were all rooting for her. I think that because she had so many people to live for is what drove her to keep going, to keep fighting,” Madeline Garrett, junior, said.

Cancer is a life-changing event and can cause immediate changes. For J. Doug Vincent, husband to faculty member Lori Vincent and father to Cameron Vincent, senior, it is focusing more on the little things in life in order to stay positive.

Cancer sucks- that kind of sums it all up. ”

— Vincent

“You have to keep a positive attitude because a negative attitude will drag you down faster than anything I’ve ever seen in any medicine or treatment. If you get negative it will go down very quick,” Vincent said.

Friends and family can be unsure about the proper way to react to a loved one being diagnosed, but one of the best ways is to show support and continue with ordinary activities. Those fighting still want to be able to relax and have fun with their friends and family.

“I wanted to keep a normal part of my life, where I could have my friends and talk to them. At first, I think they didn’t know how to react or how to treat me, but I didn’t want to be treated differently… But once you open up to them, they kind of get more comfortable with it and understand that it’s something you have to deal with, ” Vincent said.

Over time, treating cancer becomes a routine for their family, but they need ongoing support. Volunteering to help with laundry, get to and from appointments, or picking up groceries for the families are simple ways to help out.