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Moods of Oral Cancer…A Patient’s Journey

Real patient experiences shared privately at www.TreatmentDiaries.com.  Read more, share if you like or join in the conversation.  Making sure you feel less alone navigating a diagnosis is important.  Connecting you to those who can relate and provide support is what we do.


I’ve been even deeper in dissociation than usual lately. Normally, I have a habit of walking through life with a general sense of disconnection, forgetting most events, even some important ones. But lately–within the past few days I think–things have been a bit worse. I’m often feeling dizzy, having trouble translating talking into words, hearing everyday noises “echoing,” having a hard time making myself communicate with proper human body language and tone of voice, etc. I also feel even more dreamlike and can’t get my eyes to focus on anything for long. Pretty sure my depression linked to a life of living with oral cancer has something to do with it all, especially because I often feel like I lack the energy to act normally.

I think I remember feeling angry and invisible earlier today, but I can’t remember exactly why. I’m not sure if I want to remember. I can’t stand the idea of having to be reminded of recent events I should remember, but I don’t know if I could handle knowing them. It just might be too much.

I got the usual restlessness and anxiety when I got home today. It felt like I needed something to happen–and fast–though I couldn’t work up the courage to talk to my “friends.” And I don’t know why I have to put “friends” in parentheses. These people haven’t done anything wrong, and I’ve known them for years. I think I’m just so scared to get close to them and become my idea of their friend. I want to be able to run away when I start to care about what they think too much, and that’s not what people usually consider as friendship. “Friend” means commitment. “Friend” means deep caring and consideration. Those are things I can’t really handle right now, especially because of how often I slip up and how devastated I get when I do feel like I slip up. Those two things don’t mix well.

I guess I also don’t think they consider me as a “friend.” And my brain seems to think that being the only one in a relationship that considers the other person as a friend is annoying. I already feel so annoying and I blame my cancer diagnosis most for the loss of friends in my life.

I probably just overthink the meaning of friendship. After all, I’ve been told that several times. Even so, I’m still scared of intimacy and commitment and what people think, so the idea of friendship feels really overwhelming. I’m already overwhelmed enough.

Anyway, since I felt the need for something exciting/different to happen, I ended up playing a game with those people. The idea was scary, though, but I couldn’t think of another option, so I ended up taking Xanax before doing so. I think it helped a little, though the only person I had the courage to call was my partner (basically my safe person). I ended up feeling doomed about something that happened that night, though I can’t really remember what it was. Of course, the emotions I felt were expressed as anger at and avoidance of my partner, meaning he had to put up with even more drama. (He has to deal with this at least once a day…) Eventually, thanks to his help, I calmed down some. Really wish he didn’t have to be the one dealing with this every time, though.

Later that night, I think we messed around, and I was able to relax. I even felt like I was snapping out of that disassociation feeling a little – I truly don’t want to associate myself or my life with cancer, but I do. I want to be able to laugh and joke around at the end, but I’m slowly “disconnecting “more and more as time goes by, though. Xanax seems to do that sometimes. I’ll calm down some, but then I remember I have cancer and my life is not the same.  I’m pretty sure I got really emotional over at least one small thing today, though I can’t remember what it was. Cancer sucks – especially my cancer.

Mental Health & Cancer

Anxiety, fear and depression are commonly associated with life-changing events – especially cancer. People with cancer may find the physical, emotional and social side effects of the disease to be stressful. This stress may result from changes in body image, changes in family or work roles and physical symptoms due to treatment. Family members and caregivers often feel these same stressors, as they fear the loss of a loved one. They may feel angry because someone they love has cancer, frustrated that they “can’t do enough,” or stressed because they have to take on more at home. So many of these feelings are completely normal, but what is typical and when may outside help be needed?

According to The American Cancer Society, signs that the patient or a loved one may need help are the following:

  • Suicidal thoughts (or thoughts of hurting himself or herself)
  • Unable to eat or sleep
  • Lacks interest in usual activities for many days
  • Is unable to find pleasure in things they’ve enjoyed in the past
  • Has emotions that interfere with daily activities and last more than a few days
  • Is confused
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Is sweating more than usual
  • Is very restless
  • Has new or unusual symptoms that cause concern

If you or a loved one have experienced one or more of the above symptoms, there are many options for help.

Speak with your cancer team

If you find any of the above symptoms to be true, one of the first steps may be talking with your cancer team. Your team should be able to answer any questions, talk about your concerns, and, if needed, refer you to a mental health professional. Anxiety occasionally stems from the fear of uncertainty from treatment or medication side effects, so knowing what to expect may be the first step in coping.

Seek support

Once you have spoken with your cancer team and support system to determine a treatment plan, put it into action! Any of the below activities may supplement the treatment prescribed by your doctor in making both you and your loved ones feel less alone and anxious during this difficult time:

Get moving

Exercise has been proven to improve individuals’ quality of life and physical functionality. Though rest and relaxation are crucial to maintaining a healthy mind and body, regular exercise may help maintain and even improve your health. Exercise may help during treatment by improving balance and physical abilities, lowering the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, and lessen nausea. Even more importantly than physical health, exercise may improve patients’ self-esteem, mental health and quality of life.

Every individuals’ physical needs and potential are different, so it is important to speak with your doctor about what exercises are best for you. Because the stage and treatment plan for cancer patients differ, so may each patients’ stamina and strength. Staying as active and fit as possible is essential to maintaining physical well-being during treatment, so tailoring an exercise program that fits your ability and preference is essential.


Resources:

cancer.org

cancer.gov