During March, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and allies across the country will be full-steam ahead in campaigning to raise awareness and support to end colorectal cancer in our lifetime. Raising awareness is important to increase the amount of accessible cancer screenings and discover new and effective treatments for colorectal cancer.
However, where does that leave you—the survivor, the patient, the caregiver, the bereaved? During the month of blue, we want to take a moment to honor the reality that, for many in our colorectal cancer community, this month is likely to produce all sorts of emotions, including sadness, anger, and anxiety.
You might find yourself being reminded about your or your loved one’s colorectal cancer experience more often than usual this month. For some, these reminders will elicit strong intrusive emotions that keep them from living life on their terms. When this happens, it may be a sign of post traumatic stress (PTS). When these issues are prolonged and impact daily life, it’s important to be evaluated for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An overview of common symptoms of PTSD according to Cancer.net:
Nightmares and flashbacks
Avoiding places, events, people, or things that bring back bad memories
Strong feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or shame
Trouble sleeping or concentrating
Continuous feelings of fear or anger
Loss of interest in activities and relationships that used to be enjoyable
Self-destructive behavior, such as drug or alcohol abuse
Frightening or unwanted thoughts
Experiencing post traumatic stress can impact a person’s ability to attend to their medical care. PTS may prevent someone from attending doctor’s appointments, getting recommended tests, or asking for the psychological care they need. Sometimes prolonged PTS can encourage the development of other issues including depression, substance abuse, and difficulties maintaining supportive relationships. In some instances, this can impact the ability to work and maintain financial security.
If you or your loved one has experienced any of these symptoms for a prolonged period, seek professional help. Being evaluated and treated for post traumatic stress disorder can lead to a life lived on your terms. There are well researched forms of intervention for PTSD that can significantly improve quality of life.
As you join with us in thought or in action this month, remember to take care of yourself by honoring your experience with this disease. If that means you need to take a break or schedule an extra session with your counselor, pastor, or trusted friend … do it.
Even though the excitement around the efforts of colorectal cancer awareness will be loud and proud this month, take an inventory of how you are feeling and notice if you are reacting in a way that is confusing or frustrating to you.