What are the most common emotions that accompany cancer? Four of the most common emotions that accompany cancer are fear, anxiety, anger, and depression.
How can I manage my fear?
Information is probably the best defense against fear. You need to understand that there are many myths about cancer. For example, it is a myth that cancer is an automatic death sentence. There are more than 12 million cancer survivors alive today, and over 62% have lived for more than five years since their cancer diagnosis.
How can I keep my anxiety under control?
While feelings of anxiety are normal during many parts of the cancer experience, most cancer survivors rank diagnosis of their cancer as the most upsetting and anxious time. A diagnosis of cancer is a shock, and often people first react with denial—“it can’t be true” or “this can’t be happening to me.” You may not know how to think about your situation or how to plan for the future. Remember that over time you will become an expert on your own illness and treatment and that you will gain the coping skills that you need in times of crisis. Eventually, the disbelief and anxiety you feel will give way to adjusting to life after cancer.
How do I express the anger I am feeling about my cancer diagnosis?
Again, anger is a normal response to cancer and the effects that it has on your life. A cancer diagnosis may require you to alter plans and to change dreams. It may interfere with your work life and your relationships. It would be unusual if you didn’t feel some anger. The key is to express your anger in a positive way. Some people find talking to a counselor, a good friend, or a support group helpful. Others join an online chat room. Still other people find it helps to write about their anger or to paint or draw or use some type of creative outlet to lessen it. You need to guard against “misplaced” anger. This occurs when you take your anger out on your family, friends, doctors, or others who are not really the cause of your anger. If you are feeling angry, let others, especially your caregiver, know so they can be aware.
What do I do if I am depressed?
The depression felt by people who have been newly diagnosed with cancer is called reactive depression and it is different from that of people suffering from chronic mental depression. It is a natural way to cope with shock, and it most often is fairly short-term. To lessen your depression, understand first that it is normal. Allow yourself some time to get used to cancer-related losses such as the loss of control you may be feeling, or the loss of a body part or hair or the loss of self-image. Take an active role in your treatment plan and refuse to be helpless. You might also ask your health care team about speaking with a counselor or finding a support group to help you through this difficult time.
The emotional distress that cancer causes can take many forms. Anxiety, anger, depression, and frustration are all quite common. Cancer specialists use the Distress Thermometer to help them measure the emotional impact of cancer on survivors. If you are experiencing emotional distress from your cancer, it is very important to know that help is available, and to go get the help you need. The Distress Thermometer may help you describe the way you are feeling to your health care team.
Will my family also face emotional problems due to my cancer?
A family is a social system, and changes in one part of a system cause change in other parts of that system. Therefore, a diagnosis of cancer for one family member will have significant effects on all other family members. During your diagnosis, your family will face many challenges. The prolonged stress of cancer can have a negative effect on even the strongest and closest family. Communicating openly and expressing feelings within the family are crucial to creating a healing environment and helping one another gain the strength needed to deal with the crisis of cancer.