Coping with cancer
Getting diagnosed with cancer can be a shock. Here are some tips on how you can cope physically, mentally and emotionally, before and during treatment.
It is alright to feel frightened, anxious, confused and overwhelmed when you are first diagnosed with cancer. These are common and natural responses, and you need not try to hide them or feel that you need to maintain calm and keep cool. Here are some ways to help you manage your emotions:
Accurate information will help relieve some of your fear and anxiety by reducing the level of uncertainty. Do not hesitate to ask the doctor for more details, practical tips, and any information that can help you. Write down your questions and concerns before the consultation so you will not forget or miss any, and ask a friend or family member to accompany you so that he/she can help you process the answers.
Having open communication and honest dialogue with your loved ones and caregivers can help you feel supported in your journey, and also help them understand what you are going through. It may not always be helpful to put up a brave front and have loved ones shield you from bad news. Honest communication can enable you to make better decisions and get better support.
Address your feelings
Sharing your feelings honestly with family members, friends, a spiritual adviser or a counsellor can give you much-needed emotional strength. You can also try relaxation techniques or look for a source of spiritual support. If it helps, take some time out to be alone, so that you can collect and consolidate your thoughts. Getting diagnosed with cancer may require you to reflect on what and whom you value, and this may influence your decisions and relationships with those you love.
Let others help
Accept love and practical help from friends and family members. Learn to accept offers of help for household chores and errands; this not only empowers others to help you, but can also strengthen a sense of mutual support and solidarity.
Talk to others
Hearing fellow cancer patients and survivors can bring comfort and inspiration, as you will know that you are not alone in your cancer journey. They can also give you useful tips and insights from their personal experience. Talk to friends or family members who have had cancer, or join a support group.
Eating healthily can help improve your energy levels. Get a dietitian to help you plan a healthy diet with more fresh foods and less preservatives. Light exercise will also help you cope with fatigue. Try taking short strolls after meals and doing some stretching, and make sure you get enough rest.
Prepare for changes
Physical changes resulting from the cancer and the treatment may be unavoidable. It helps to prepare yourself mentally so that you can adjust to them. Ask your doctor about what to expect, for example, whether you will get hair loss, nausea, or physical weakness. You might also find it useful to attend practical workshops or support groups to help you manage these changes.
Continue your routines
Where possible, try to continue activities that help you keep your mind off your illness and give you some joy or a sense of fulfilment. It could be your favourite hobby, like playing the piano, listening to music, or painting. But do not try to do too much; take small steps and be gentle and patient with yourself – and with those caring for you. Take it one day at a time!
Adapted from CanHOPE resources. CanHOPE is a non-profit cancer counselling and support service provided by Parkway Cancer Centre. For more information, go to https://www.canhope.org