Many people’s worst nightmare is having their doctor tell them “You have cancer.” Normal life is suspended as your medical team begins assessing just how far it has metastasized and prescribing treatment. Your medical team has likely done their best to prepare you for the physical changes, but you might not be prepared for the emotional changes that occur after you are diagnosed and receive treatment.
Be Honest About Your Fears
Battling cancer is terrifying, as is the thought of a recurrence after you beat it the first time. Your fears are legitimate, but they shouldn’t hold you back. It is okay to be honest with yourself and your loved ones about your fears. When you go in for breast cancer recurrence tests, ask a supportive loved one to accompany you and help ease your worries. When you are upfront about your cancer fears, you can find constructive ways to begin coping with them.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
When you’re dealing with a lot of difficult emotions amidst a major health crisis, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be difficult. Cancer and cancer treatments zap you of a lot of health and vitality, which is why it is important to adopt a healthy diet and exercise routine as you recover. Start thinking about what you should add to and subtract from your diet. While undergoing chemo, you might want to add foods rich in selenium, lean protein, and antioxidants to your diet. Also, getting more involved in the cooking of your food might ease depression symptoms, as getting back into a daily food prep routine can make you feel “normal” again.
Exercise will be difficult at first, and you will have to rebuild your strength and endurance over time. Many cancer patients have found that meditation, yoga, and walking are beneficial in regaining physical and emotional strength. While these exercises don’t cure cancer, they help rebuild your body’s strength and can bring you some peace of mind.
Always Do Follow-Ups
Although follow-up appointments can be a real pain in the behind, you should always attend these appointments and do all follow-up tests with your medical care team. Cancer can recur locally, regionally, or in an entirely different area of the body. Surgery might not remove all of the cancer, and cancer can become resistant to treatment. To help ensure your health and peace of mind, attend all of your follow-ups, and don’t be afraid to ask questions during those appointments.
Keep Stress and Anxiety At Bay
Cancer is stressful. There’s no getting around it. However, stress and anxiety can potentially have a negative impact on those with cancer. Studies have shown that the release of the stress hormone norepinephrine might result in quickened metastasis or in the formation of new blood vessels which enable tumors to grow.
There is no shame in reaching out to a licensed therapist for help with overcoming the stress, anxiety, and depression that cancer can cause. Having a strong network of support can make a huge difference in terms of how well you emotionally recover from cancer and cancer treatment. Many hospitals, community organizations, and nonprofit businesses offer support groups for those who are battling or have previously battled cancer. For example, there are Gilda’s Club locations throughout the United States that provide support and resources for cancer patients. Among their resources are options for mental health treatment.
Getting diagnosed with and treated for cancer is nothing short of an emotional trauma for most people. It is something many of us worry about, and when it becomes a reality, it can be difficult to deal with the emotional aspect of cancer. However, there is hope! Keeping anxiety and stress to a minimum, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and finding support within your personal and larger community can make a world of difference. The emotional healing starts when you begin confronting your fears.