It is natural to be anxious when your world is suddenly shaken up by a cancer diagnosis and your future looks uncertain. Fear can consume you, causing you to think or act in an irrational way or locking you in an anxiety-filled state.
To calm anxiety upon diagnosis:
- While there is usually SO much information to take in at first, it is worth writing down as much as you can remember from the first meeting. Keep a notebook handy so that you can scribble down anything that comes to mind and ask about anything that confuses you at your next consultation.
- Find out as much information as you can so that you know where you stand…
- …BUT don’t Google anything! Remember that each case is individual and that your story will not be the same as anyone else’s.
To calm anxiety throughout treatment:
- If you haven’t been seen for a while or are concerned about anything, call the hospital and let them know – they’ll be able to give you the best advice as they have your notes and will know you personally.
- There are therapists, helplines and doctors available to help you – don’t worry in silence!
- Write down your worries, scream them on a beach (preferably empty!) or confide in someone – anything to get them out of your head.
- Breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth when you’re feeling particularly stressed.
To calm anxiety when treatment finishes:
- Because you may look physically better than you did while on treatment, people may believe you’re feeling better mentally too. This is not always the case and you should certainly not be ashamed if you are finding things difficult after treatment.
- After treatment or years down the line, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder may kick in as you’ve undergone a life changing experience. Don’t be afraid to seek medical advice if you begin to suffer with severe anxiety, flashbacks or depression.
- You may become fixed upon the idea that you will relapse and fear that your body will not be strong enough to cope with the demands of treatment.
- You may also become paranoid that you may lose others since the whole experience will make you more aware of your mortality.
- Dealing with these fears is hard but you must attempt to find an inner strength and acceptance. You cannot change what has already happened and you can only do so much in preventing what is to come. Keep telling yourself that.
- Focus your mind on things that calm you down – therapeutic activities that you enjoy such as crafting, knitting, crocheting, writing and listening to or playing music may prove beneficial.
- Write a list of things that you want to achieve in the future – check out Greig Trout & his website ‘101 Things to do When You Survive’ (http://www.whenyousurvive.com/) – a fellow cancer survivor who made his list and chased his dreams!
- You are strong. Don’t forget how far you have come.
In my personal experience:
- I saw a psychologist who helped me overcome my anxiety and panic attacks by talking to me about the fight/flight response. Once I realised why my adrenaline was pumping so fast, (in the same way that a caveman feels fear at the sight of a lion, I felt it at the smell of food!) then I realised that I wouldn’t pass out & my panic attacks became fewer.