As we covered in last week’s blog post, feelings of distress, such as depression, hopelessness, anxiety, sadness, uncertainty, and fear are common for cancer patients and caregivers, but all is not lost. While having top-notch support system with your medical team and loved ones is important, there are several things that you can do yourself to improve your ability to cope. A positive way to avoid feeling powerless is to take an active role in dealing with the cancer.
We Like To Move It Move It
Exercise is actually a very beneficial coping tactic. Moderate exercise has been shown to help with anxiety, tiredness, blood vessel and heart fitness, muscle strength, and tiredness. By alleviating some treatment side effects and improving strength, a cancer patient may find it easier to undergo treatment. It’s very difficult to start to exercise when you’re feeling tired, as many people feel after treatment, but that’s why it is even more important. Focus on the fact that exercise increases energy and releases endorphins, both of which will make you feel better. You just have to take that first step. We would be remiss if we did not note, however, that any exercise regimen should be cleared with your oncologist before you begin.
But Wait, There’s More
Additional ways that may help you cope with your illness include:
— Use methods that have helped you get through crises or periods of high-stress in the past, whether it’s talking with a friend or an outlet like painting, meditation, or listening to music.
— Take one day at a time. Don’t worry about the future. Focusing on coping “today” without worrying about how you’ll cope tomorrow makes an illness like cancer easier to manage.
— Always ask questions. Being well-informed is important so you know what you can do for your part. Make sure your doctor lets you ask all your questions and is happy to answer all of them.
— Get spiritual, if so inclined. Many cancer patients find support and strength in belief systems they value, even if they are not particularly spiritual or religious.
— Keep detailed records of doctor information, treatment dates, x-rays, lab values, symptoms, scans, medicines, side effects, and any other information related to the cancer. When you give yourself a responsibility, you have a better feeling of purpose. You can also keep a journal as an emotional outlet.
Do NOT Suffer in Silence
Cancer is not one of those things that you should try to deal with alone. Research shows that cancer patients who have a network of support fare better during treatment and have higher survival rates. There’s nothing embarrassing about asking for help or unloading your worries and fears. There’s nothing wrong with being frustrated about the side effects of treatment. Take a leaf out of Madonna’s book and “Express Yourself.” The worst thing you can do when you have cancer is shut people out.