The last words you want to hear
Handling your emotions following a cancer diagnosis is no easy task. Mood swings, intense sadness, fear and heightened stress are the normal and entirely natural feelings we may experience when presented with this situation. Whilst there is no right or wrong way to respond, there is a way to honour a response that feels best for you.
Steps to take after diagnosis
- Take time for yourself: Take the time that you need in order to process what the diagnosis means for you. During times of intense fear, worry or uncertainty, it is so easy to forget to eat or to sleep. It is so easy to become neglectful of essential health needs. Eat healthily, stay hydrated and try as best as you can to respect both a sleep routine and a practice of rest as much as you need. Take one day at a time and ensure that you are prioritising your self-care.
- Attain a support system that you are comfortable with: Whether this means confiding in one trusted friend or family member for the time being, or whether that means telling everybody that you know, it is important that you move at your own pace.
- Consider therapeutic support: The therapy process can assist you in dealing with your emotions, innermost thoughts and feelings in a confidential and safe environment. So often, people with a cancer diagnosis feel that they are burdening loved ones with their emotions and that it is necessary to wear a mask of bravery and confidence. A counsellor, psychotherapist or doctor offers you a trusting, professional relationship in which you are able to open up about your fears, your worries, your anger or whatever it is that you are experiencing in that particular moment. Living with cancer and treatment can be overwhelming, therapeutic support can be incredibly beneficial to you during this time.
- Be able to recognise depression: Whilst it is a normal and logical response to endure sadness and depression in the wake of a cancer diagnosis, it is important to be mindful of warning signs that are a cause for concern. If you find that your sadness or depressive symptoms are becoming stronger over time and a challenge to you each day, seeking support from your doctor is essential.
Some of the signs of depression include feeling a sense of confusion, having problems with memory loss or issues with basic thinking. You may experience a negative impact to your sleep, whereby you are sleeping too little or conversely too much. Your appetite might also be impaired in this way, whereby you are eating too little or too much. You may feel intensely fatigued and feel to have zero energy. You may suffer a complete loss of hope or desire to continue. You may also experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Don’t be afraid to seek support
Do not delay in seeking support from your doctor or a mental health professional. If you are having suicidal thoughts, seek emergency support straight away. In spite of whatever diagnosis you have been given, your time matters. You matter and you deserve to live every second with as much comfort, joy, love, pride, safety and happiness as you can possibly attain.
Whilst there is your own response to manage, there is also the response of others to contend with. At times this can be challenging. Nobody can fully appreciate what it is that you are experiencing, for it is your unique, myriad of feelings that are likely to be changing from one moment to the next. Everybody’s cancer story is different. As such, there may well be an urge to isolate yourself from people during this time. Be mindful that there is also the common ground of others who themselves have been diagnosed with cancer or those that know and love you so very much that they can appreciate what it is that you are going through.
Be true to yourself and others
Do not suffer on your own. Emotional support of your choosing, be it from friends, family members, mental health carers or support groups, is key. There will be tough days ahead. In time, you may feel acceptance about your diagnosis, in truth, you may not. The goal here is, to be honest with your feelings and to take extra special care of yourself and what it is that you want as you approach each and every day during this journey.
Wishing you strength, hope and good mental health,
MSc, BA (Hons), Pg Dip
News on Sunday – My Weekly Advice Column
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