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Okay, You Have Cancer … Does it Have to Impact Your Mental Health?

In my first blog post for you, I spoke about who a social worker is, what she does, and the valuable resource she/he is for you.

Today I want to speak of a related issue. This is the first of two blog posts. This one is about the mental health of the person experiencing cancer. Next month, I’ll speak to the mental health needs of the caregiver. 

So, what do I mean about “mental health?”

If I look it up on dictionary.com, here is what it says:

  1. psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life.
  2. the field of medicine concerned with the maintenance or achievement of such well-being and adjustment.

This might sound like gobble-di-gook, so let me state it more clearly.

While your body is going through physical health challenges … your cancer and your overall well-being, your psychological or emotional or mental well-being is being impacted as well.

Physically, you’re told what to expect … how surgery works, how chemotherapy and/or radiation work. They explain side-effects, reactions, etc. Emotional reactions … well that’s a horse of a different color. Physicians don’t often explain how you’ll be impacted that way… not because they don’t want to, but because it’s not so easily known. Emotional reactions are so much more individualized. So, let me explain some concerns.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  1. Are you generally a “cup half-full” sort of person .. in other words, do you see the upside of situations? (If so, you might handle the emotional side more effectively.)
  2. Do you easily become anxious and worried? (If so, your emotions will be more volatile.)
  3. Are you a “reactive” sort; in other words, do you get angry or aggressive when you’re uncomfortable? (If so, you might be striking out at others.)
  4. How do you deal with fear? Are you able to mask it or do you become consumed with it?
  5. How are you at reaching out for help and emotional support? Will you easily talk with people about all of the above?

As you can see, describing and dealing with the emotional side is less predictable.

Case in point:  Me. Although I tend to get fearful, sometimes see the cup as half-empty, when I was diagnosed, I absolutely declared to myself that I would “beat” this disease … and not succumb to it. That meant I needed to keep my spirits up, reach out to others for support.

That being said, it’s also not okay to be too strong or too independent.  “Why” you might ask? Well, because you won’t be able to handle it all on your own. You will need help – getting to appointments, after surgery, during chemo treatments, etc. You need people to be there with you physically but also to buoy your spirits, help you laugh and see the light-side.

So, to sum it up … people going through cancer feel the following emotional issues:

  • Fear and apprehension
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Uncertainty
  • Shame
  • Grief
  • Despair and maybe depression.

What can they do?

  • Breathe … a lot … slowly, deeply and repeat
  • Cry  (but not for too long)
  • Ask others for what you need
  • Meditate
  • Keep a “gratefulness journal”
  • Be good to yourself
  • Find ways to laugh and smile and have fun.

Be prepared to have your feelings be up and down and all over the place, but don’t judge them. You can do this!

I certainly hope this is helpful to you and I’m open to respond with questions. You can email me at ann@annfry.com   And, if you’re dealing with a mindset around Cancer, please go here for a FREE download:  www.cancer-360.com

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