Being diagnosed with cancer is a traumatic experience. After the initial shock, many people may be overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty of what to expect moving forward.
Questions swirling in their minds about their condition as well as what the future holds: What type of cancer do I have? Can it be treated? Is my type of cancer curable? What side effects from treatment can I expect? Does this mean my children will get cancer too? A lot of attention is given to this first stages of diagnosis and treatment, but few people stop to consider the impact of survival. There are several mental health hurdles that emerge with the sense of freedom and relief.
The important thing to remember though, is that you are a cancer warrior. You’ve beaten the worst and taking control of your mental health is the next step.
Free and Fearful
It’s accurate to say that surviving cancer comes at a price. Of course there’s happiness and excitement at having a new lease on life, but underpinning all that joy is a constant fear. What if the cancer comes back? Some survivors are still gripped with that fear even decades after being free from cancer. This intense fear often prevents them from taking important steps toward their future – avoiding marriage, stifling career and life ambitions – just in case the cancer comes back.
People also struggle with ongoing anxiety triggered by sights or sounds that remind them of treatment, and the smallest pain or irregularity sending them into an anxious spiral. Still, others may find themselves dealing with survivor’s guilt about overcoming the disease while losing friends to the same. The psychological impact of survival is something that shouldn’t be ignored to ensure that a good quality of life is achieved. Studies have shown that cancer survivors who are younger, from a lower income, have a lower level of education, and single are at higher risk for developing mental health conditions.
Short-term fears of survival include shifting the mindset from battle mode to wellness and fear of recurrence, while long-term concerns involve dealing with diminished emotional support from family and friends, and the perceived loss of support from healthcare providers.
Reach out for Support
Since the main focus of medical professionals tends to be more on the physical health of their patients, their psychological state is too often overlooked. The truth of the matter is that conditions like Anxiety Disorder, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Depression set in upon diagnosis of cancer, and often continue during treatment and long after remission.
“Chemo Brain” is a condition that develops during chemotherapy treatment of cancer that affects cognition, memory, and learning new things. In some patients, chemo brain persists even after treatment. Communicating struggles with mental health is usually not a priority for cancer survivors who feel that they shouldn’t complain, or don’t want to be a further burden on those around them. They may feel guilt about not being okay when they’ve just survived cancer.
But it’s extremely important to talk about what you’re feeling. There is no shame in mental illness and in fact, reaching out for help speaks more about the warrior you already are. Help exists and should be sought.
At ZwavelStream Clinic we have a team of experts who specialize in the treatment of various mental health conditions. They can serve as vital support during and after your battle with cancer, providing a healthy path to mental wellness that will complement your physical health. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you take back control and improve the quality of the life for which you fought so hard.