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Psychological Distress in Long-term Survivors of Adult-Onset Cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming no matter what stage of cancer you might have. It stirs up a lot of feelings. It is absolutely natural to feel this way. Only the patient but the people close to the person diagnosed with cancer might share the same emotions too. But staying positive and optimistic can boost the quality of life and even improve the results of the ongoing treatment.

Myriad of emotions

Just not one emotion but you might be in the torrent of all sorts of emotions. You might feel shocked, sad, lonely, angry, guilty, and despaired. All these feelings are genuine and you might start by accepting them. They are part of your journey of cancer treatment.

For most people, cancer comes with loss. You might lose good health. Your overall appearance can change. Even family relations can change. One might face financial setbacks due to the heavy load caused by cancer treatment. These are in addition to physical suffering. So, one needs to pay attention to their mental health too. Mental health is something you can’t ignore or say that you will see about it another day. 

Anybody’s first reaction after being diagnosed with cancer would be shock and the feeling of being knocked off your feet. Denial and not accepting the truth can be a result of hearing the news. Some might not fully accept the diagnosis. Feeling numb is another emotion that may arise. It goes away slowly as you become accustomed to the truth. 

In the course of treatment, feeling fear and anxiety before and after the results is quite normal. You might think that you are not healing the way you should have. Your body would be in a “fight or flight” situation. Shallow breath and panic attacks are the results of it. For some people, these feelings settle down eventually but they can stay for some. 

You might feel sad, which is quite common and natural. This can turn into depression. Loss of hope and having trouble concentrating on day-to-day work or even trouble getting up from bed. These all are signs of depression.

Anger is another response arising out of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. One might get angry for small or no reason. You might be angry and ask questions like why you, why not someone else. People diagnosed with cancer often think about their loved ones and family. They feel guilty about giving them a hard time and pain. 

Dealing with your feelings

The first thing you need to do is accept your feelings. Accept that you are feeling overwhelmed, fearful, weak, and angry. There is nothing such as that your feelings should make sense in order to be genuine. All feelings are natural and it’s okay to feel that way. Don’t be hard on yourself or live in guilt. Accepting that one has cancer might have a positive effect. Put yourself together and prepare yourself to start fighting. This can instill a sense of hope and optimism in you even if the odds are against you. Hence, your chances of increasing your quality of life will surely increase whether you are living with cancer or beyond cancer.

Some doctors believe in the psychological effect like a sense of hope and positivity to reinforce the cancer treatment. It prepares the body to better deal with cancer and the havoc caused to the body due to the treatment involved.

Ways to stay positive and hopeful

The first thing to do would be to accept the things as they are and try to get back on your feet. Try not to change anything. Let things remain as they used to be. Plan your day just like you used to do before. This will help feel stable and stay focused. Don’t avoid doing fun stuff or fun activities with your friends and family. Try not to limit yourself or confine yourself to the four walls of your room.

Search for the reasons to be happy and stay hopeful. Make a list of all such things and read it aloud if you like. You can even talk about these things with your loved ones. Some people reflect on their religious and spiritual aspects. Introspecting such a facet of oneself might help one to better cope with the situation. For some people, it might lead to a change in life goals. One might even reflect and find the things that they never thought existed.

Join a community or get emotional support

One can join a community with people dealing with cancer. Hearing fight stories can give a sense of hope. Talking and listening to the people going through a similar situation can have a positive effect on you and your family. You can learn a lot from their experience and how they dealt with a particular difficulty. 

Nowadays, you can even join an online community. There are several such communities fostering positivity and support in their members. Listening to their success stories can boost your morale and strength to fight cancer. 

If required, get a personal counselor to help you cope with your stress and heal you mentally. There is nothing wrong with getting emotional help. 

Summing up

There is an old saying- “accept the things you cannot change, have the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. You should try to understand what you can control, what you can do to change things, and strength to accept what you can’t control or change. Try to accept your feelings, and your limits but not give up without a fight at the same time. 

Expert Guidance from Cancer Coach

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