There is no ‘right’ way to feel after a cancer diagnosis – as with any other life-changing event, it is likely that you will experience a range of emotions including sadness, anger and frustration. Treatments interrupt hormone and energy levels and your relationship with your body, and your loved ones, can change.
In this guide, we have researched a variety of resources to bring you five ways you can manage your emotions during cancer treatment.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
The way you feel can impact how you cope with cancer treatment, so it is important to be honest with yourself and others when asked, “How are you?”. Healthcare professionals won’t expect you to say, “I’m fine”, and if you can be honest with your friends and family it will help them to better understand if and how they might be able to help.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking to your loved ones about your feelings, you can call Macmillan Cancer Support, for free, on 0808 808 00 00. Or click this link to the support page on their website: Macmillan Support Line
2. Help others to find the right words
Having been diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, artist Emily McDowell found that the greetings cards she received suggesting that she ‘Get Well Soon’ didn’t really resonate with her. So, she created a range of empathy cards that have gained fame and approval around the world. Featuring messages that acknowledge the difficulties that come with cancer, without being maudlin or unrealistic, her cards help people to find the right words for difficult conversations.
3. Focus on your mental wellbeing
A recent study conducted by Breast Cancer Care revealed that eight in ten people diagnosed with breast cancer were not told about its possible impact on their mental health. As a result, the charity has partnered with Mind to raise awareness of the links between cancer and mental health. It also provides a range of services that focus on improving mental health for people with breast cancer including an app, access to clinical experts and courses.
From a more general perspective, the NHS has a useful, simple, guide to taking positive steps in your overall mental wellbeing which includes spending time with others and trying mindfulness.
4. Keep active
Being active – whenever possible – has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and improve sleep quality and overall mood. It can also act as a positive aid to post-treatment recovery.
Whether you want to regain fitness that has been lost since your diagnosis or are looking for a way to incorporate exercise into your treatment plan, Macmillan has a useful resource that looks at the benefits of being active before, during and after treatment and the role of exercise in recovery.
5. Express yourself
Some people use their cancer diagnosis as a means to open up a conversation with the rest of the world – from creating a blog, as Matthew Wiltshire has with ‘Bowel Bloke’, to creating an art exhibition exploring the impact of cancer from the perspective of the person with the diagnosis and their partner – as in the case of Róisín Lanigan and Josh Spindler’s ‘Guess I’ll Live’.
If you’re not confident creating art on your own, guided Art Therapy has proven to be a useful way for people to explore and express their feelings relating to cancer. Many hospitals and hospices are now offering this service to patients as part of their care plan. Cancer Research provides information on the kind of therapies available and what to expect – you can read more on their website
You could also try making your voice well and truly heard. Singing as part of a group has been shown to boost levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer. The research, carried out by Tenovus Cancer Care in association with the Royal College of Music, demonstrated that after an hour of singing, members of the Tenovus Sing with Us choirs had significantly increased quantities of cytokines – proteins of the immune system – which can boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness. To find your local group, visit Tenovus Cancer Care online
For more information relating to managing your emotions during cancer treatment, the following organisations have a range of support and resources available.
Cancer Research UK: www.cancerresearchuk.org
Tenovus Cancer Care: www.tenovuscancercare.org.uk
At Helpd, we provide a dedicated online introductory service that puts you in control of care – including caring for people living with cancer. To find out more, visit www.helpd.co.uk
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