Your dreams of starting a family, of buying a house, of having grandchildren or of retirement in Florida may all come to a halt when your doctor says, “I’m sorry, but the test results revealed that you have cancer.”
In that brief moment, the future that you’ve dreamed up for yourself suddenly seems less attainable. Even though medical advancements have greatly improved chances of remission and the possibility of a long, healthy life, that doesn’t mean that a cancer diagnosis won’t drastically change your life. The first side effects of a cancer diagnosis that people may think about are the physical ones like hair loss, nausea and fatigue. However, some of the biggest challenges a cancer patient may experience are mental challenges.
While no one is going to respond the same way to difficult news like a cancer diagnosis, a number of cancer patients may experience several common mental health disorders. According to The National Cancer Institute, approximately 25 percent of cancer survivors experience symptoms of depression and about 45 percent experience anxiety. Some patients may even exhibit symptoms that meet the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The most concerning statistic is that cancer survivors are twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population.
The physical pain, treatments and stressors involved with a diagnosis is enough to cause a mental health disorder to develop on its own, but a person still has to deal with everyday stresses relative to relationships, finances and family issues. Some tips to boost your mental well-being during such a trying time can include:
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Make sure you are eating enough calories because that’s will maintain your energy level. Lean proteins and colorful fruits and vegetables are nutritious choices that can help boost your strength and attitude.
- Go outside. Going outdoors and getting fresh air can help clear your mind of negative thoughts associated with your illness.
- Make memories. You shouldn’t let your cancer diagnosis keep you from living your life and enjoying your relationships.
- Talk about it. Talking about your feelings can often make you feel better, it can be especially beneficial to talk to other cancer patients so you have someone to relate to and possibly offer a new perspective.
- Grieve losses. As your illness and treatment progresses, you may face a number of obstacles like losing your independence or your ability to maintain your routine and complete simple tasks like grocery shopping or doing laundry. You should take time to grieve these personal losses before you try to move on.
- Take your medications and supplements as directed. With your illness you may often experience chronic pain, it’s important to take your pain medication as directed so you don’t increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder. You should also discuss any changes you want to make regarding medications or supplements with your care team.
- Get financial counseling. By discussing your extra expenses with an experienced financial counselor you can alleviate some of your anxiety.
- Maintain an active social life. It’s important to have a strong support network because it helps you get through treatment physically and mentally.
Cancer can take a toll on your body but it can also be hard on your mind as well. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, recovery is possible. Call and speak with a representative at The Recovery Village to find out more about treatment options. The call is free, confidential, and there is no obligation to enroll.
Jennifer Kopf is a Florida-based writer who likes to balance creative writing with helpful and informative pieces. When she’s not writing for The Recovery Village, she’s writing for her blog, visiting the theme parks, going to the beach and being a Pom-mom to her two Pomeranians.