The mental health challenges of being a cancer survivor

The mental health challenges of being a cancer survivor

As a cancer survivor, you have the power to conquer your fears. It is important to remember that you are not alone on this journey and to discuss your fears with a doctor or counselor, close friend or family member. Our recent blog post explains how to ease yourself back in the stream of life.

Cancer survivors endure many emotional challenges along the road to recovery. While many patients take advantage of emotional support resources during treatment, maintaining good mental health is also just as important post-treatment.

While being pronounced cancer-free is indeed great news, often survivors have a hard time moving on with their lives. They struggle with making big decisions such as taking a new job, getting married or buying a house because they cannot entirely rid themselves of the fear their cancer may return. Fear can also manifest itself in worry and anxiety over follow-up medical appointments, new aches or pains and even the sights and sounds that remind a patient of their treatment, which can trigger fears of recurrence. In both cases, the fear of recurrence can be emotionally paralyzing.

As a cancer survivor, you have the power to conquer your fears. Start by being honest with yourself and acknowledging your fears. As hard as it might seem, try to deal with your fears head-on. Burying your head in the sand won't make the fears go away or make you feel better.

Discuss your fears with your doctor or a counselor, close friend or family member. Once your fears are in the open, you can take steps to alleviate them, including taking care of your body, staying busy, joining a peer support group, never missing a follow-up appointment or test and continuing to acknowledge and own the fear as a natural reaction to having had cancer.

Post-treatment stress can also have a negative impact on the emotional balance of the cancer survivor. Once treatment is over, the demands of "normal" daily life might seem overwhelming. Whether it's a long list of neglected to-dos or just getting back into the flow of work and family life, once-simple things may now cause stress.

They key to dealing with feeling stressed and overwhelmed is to not bite off more than you can chew. Take it easy for a while and ease yourself back into the stream of life. As you establish a new routine and begin to tackle projects, be sure to include time to take care of yourself through exercise, hobbies, social outings and other activities you have always enjoyed.

Often, cancer survivors deal with lingering feelings of sadness and anxiety. These feelings can be pervasive and interfere with one's ability to effectively deal with daily life. They can also lead to depression. Over time, these feelings may ease, but if they don't, consulting one's personal physician is recommended. Your doctor may refer you to a therapist or a peer support group or prescribe medication. Peer cancer survivor support groups can be hugely beneficial in helping cancer survivors cope with and overcome these feelings. For more information on support resources, visit the American Cancer Society's website or talk to the cancer care experts at Goshen Health's Center for Cancer Care.

As a cancer survivor, the most important things to remember are that you are not alone, that you are on your way to becoming a stronger, healthier person, and that with your cancer in the rearview mirror, you can embrace and enjoy the journey ahead of you.

Posted: 9/08/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: cancer, health, mental

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