Cancer’s Emotional Impact: Top 5 Areas

Thanks to everyone who shared their feedback in last week’s survey, Impact of Cancer Experience. It’s no secret that cancer impacts everyone in different ways, but I wanted to share the top five areas that were revealed by the survey results and share some ideas to help you address and cope with the different scenarios that may be impacting you wherever you are in your journey. .image.png

Work – You’ll need to figure out how and if you will continue to work while you are being treated for cancer. Here are some tips to help you better manage your work life.

  • Set limits and realistic expectations with management, being clear about when and to what extent you will be taking time off or returning to work.
  • Don’t take on any extra responsibilities at work. This will further deplete your energy and add stress to what may feel more demanding than it once was.
  • Familiarize yourself with your employer’s leave and illness policies so you can make informed decisions about taking time off.
  • Find allies in the workplace and educate co-workers who you can trust to support you.
  • Give yourself time to recover.  Find ways to breathe and relax, if you can, during the day.
  • Sometimes people find that they choose to return to work too quickly. If you can manage it, consider giving yourself a slow re-entry (i.e. returning less than full-time at first).

Relationships – Cancer can impact many things in your life, including your friendships, family life and marriage.

  • The stress of diagnosis, treatment and recovery can be hard on a marriage or committed relationship.  Know that you are not alone in this.  Consider reaching out for support from a marriage counselor or individual therapist.
  • Some people may not have the capacity to be a friend to you during this time.  This can be painful. Try not to blame yourself for this.
  • You may find that people you barely knew become important parts of your life and that you are better for getting to know them.
  • Be willing to risk connecting with new people through support groups and other healthy activities.

Mood – A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event which will undoubtedly affect your mood and it’s important to take notice of these fluctuations.

  • Know that shock, stress, grief, anger, fear and even terror are normal responses to the cancer experience. Know that these are not permanent states and will eventually pass.
  • Be open to allowing the experience to impact you instead of fighting to pretend everything is exactly the same as before.  This will free you to not stuff your feelings and reach out for support.
  • Let your loved ones know how you are really feeling, if it’s emotionally safe to do so. Allow people to comfort you and to be with you in the struggle of what you are feeling.
  • Support groups can be VERY helpful for many people.  Seek them out in person and online.
  • Make use of activities such as exercise, yoga, meditation, bodywork.  Choose activities that bring pleasure to your body at a time when you may be feeling physical and emotional discomfort.
  • Find a good therapist and share.
  • If you are unable to find relief and/or worry that you might hurt yourself, please seek a consultation with a psychiatrist or therapist immediately.  You are going through a lot and deserve all the support you can access.
  • Enjoy the moments of gratitude and contentment and appreciation that can be a part of your experience. Know that these are not permanent and don’t try to hold on to them. They will come again.

Mental Focus – Cancer treatments may cause cognitive symptoms such as a shortened attention span, difficulty thinking and short-term memory. (“cancer brain” or “chemo brain”).

  • Give yourself time to rest and recover.
  • Know that most cognitive challenges will improve once treatment ends.
  • Practice self compassion and patience with yourself and the process.
  • Find support groups.
  • Try meditation to improve memory and lower stress, anxiety, and  and inflammation.
  • Even if your memory or executive functioning does not return to pre treatment standards (mine didn’t!), you are still a worthwhile person.  Practice acceptance of how things are now.  Get support for this if you need to-it’s hard!
  • Practice enjoying being “in the moment!”

How your goals and priorities may change and evolve-coming up next week.

Whether you are a cancer survivor, loved one, or oncology professional, there’s still time to let your voice be heard in the survey:

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