By: Jane Bausch, LICSW, and Molly Williamson, LICSW
A cancer diagnosis and treatment can be challenging for both the body and the mind. Many patients describe difficult emotions such as loneliness, anger, guilt, sadness, and worry, in addition to feeling overwhelmed with uncertainty about their health and other areas of their life.
Recognizing these emotions is an important first step in coping with cancer. There is no right or wrong way to feel after diagnosis and during treatment, and coping can look very different based on your personality, values, and supports.
Below are some helpful steps in being able to better cope with a cancer diagnosis and associated stressors.
Figure out what is in your control. This can be as simple as identifying the source of your worry, anger, or sadness. This can also mean discussing what medical information you would like your medical team to offer surrounding your cancer and care.
Talk with others about your worries or write them down. Speak with your medical team, loved ones, and even a mental health professional about your thoughts and feelings about cancer. Keeping a journal, or notes of what is on your mind, may also allow you to alleviate stress.
Consider medication. If you are finding that depression and anxiety are interfering in your daily life, a psychiatric medication may be a good option for you. Your cancer care team and/or a mental health professional will be able to discuss various options for you.
Forget about your cancer. You are entitled to feel joy and happiness while facing your cancer. Working, engaging in your hobbies, seeing friends, and exercising are all great ways to reclaim roles outside of that of a cancer patient. Adding structure and routine is also a very healthy coping strategy for those coping with uncertainty and stress.
Prioritize self-care. Exercising, eating a healthful diet, and relaxation techniques are all important ways to prioritize your health. In addition to these, deciding which activities and tasks are most important can help create healthy boundaries.
Jane Bausch, LICSW, and Molly Williamson, LICSW were speakers at AllyCon 2019, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s national conference.