CANCER AND ILLNESS - Constructive Strategies for Rational Living, LLC

CANCER AND ILLNESS

CANCER AND ILLNESS

• Are you overwhelmed, terrified and suddenly feel lonely?

• Are you worried about the next steps?

• Are you trying to figure out how to tell your family and friends?

“The results came back, it’s positive, we’re going to need you to come back in to run some more tests.”

“What?!? That’s not possible! I don’t feel that bad, they must have me mixed up with another patient. Yes, that’s it, they have me confused with someone else.” This is pretty much how it always starts.

“What?!? That’s not possible! I don’t feel that bad, they must have me mixed up with another patient. Yes, that’s it, they have me confused with someone else.” This is pretty much how it always starts.

At first, the thought of living with cancer, and treatment, will be overwhelming. You might even feel like giving up hope. Or worse, you have hope but know you have no control over this. Having a support system is an important part of dealing with emotions. It's also important to have a supportive health care team who will work with you during and after treatment. Included in that team should be a therapist to help you and your loved ones through the most critical experience of your life.

I provide a safe, empathetic environment for you to talk about your pain, your fear, your anxiety, and your sadness in a way no one else can. I provide a unique perspective on providing therapy to those with a serious illness. You have a safe place to process all your thoughts and feelings as you endure this unimaginable process. You will have a lot of questions, more than you ever thought were possible. Then you will have more questions. The worst ones are the ones there are no answers to. There are a lot of those too. I will help you with all those questions. I will help you figure out the ones that can be answered and process the frustration of those that can’t.

I also provide therapy to family members of cancer patients. If someone in your family has cancer and you don’t know how to be the best support you can be, or if you are having difficulty dealing with your own grief, I am here to help. Loving someone who is on the toughest journey of their life is heartbreaking and stressful. There are very few support systems for the loved ones of patients. They are on their own personal journey of anguish. Let me help you, I will be your support and your guide.

There are many stages and feelings you will experience

Denial

When you were first diagnosed with cancer, you may have had trouble believing or accepting the fact that you are sick. This is called denial. It can be helpful because it can give you time to adjust to your diagnosis. It can also give you time to feel hopeful and better about the future.

Sometimes, denial is a serious problem. If it lasts too long, it can keep you from getting the treatment you need.

The good news is that most people work through denial. Usually by the time treatment begins, most people accept the fact that they are sick and move forward. This is true for those with cancer as well as the people they love and care about.

Overwhelmed

When you first learn that you are have cancer, you may feel as if your life is out of control. This could be because:

  • You wonder if you're going to live.
  • Your normal routine is disrupted by doctor visits and treatments.
  • People use medical terms that you don't understand.
  • You feel like you can't do the things you enjoy.
  • You feel helpless and lonely.

Even if you feel out of control, there are ways you can take charge. It may help to learn as much as you can about your cancer. The more you know, the more in control you'll feel. Ask your doctor questions and don't be afraid to say when you don't understand.

For some people, it feels better to stay busy. If you have the energy, try taking part in activities are surrounding yourself with friends.

Anger

It's very normal to ask, "Why me?" You may be angry at the cancer for having the audacity to interrupt your life like this. “How can you take me away from my family? What did they ever do to you?”

You may also feel anger or resentment towards your health care providers, your healthy friends and your loved ones. You may even feel angry with God.

Anger often is a cover for feelings that are hard to show. Common examples are:

  • fear
  • panic
  • frustration
  • anxiety
  • helplessness

If you feel angry, you don't have to pretend that everything is okay. It's not healthy to keep it inside you. Talk with your family and friends about your anger. And seek the help of a counselor.

Fear and Worry

It's scary to hear that you have terminal illness such as cancer. You will be afraid or worried about:

  • Being in pain, either from the illness or the treatment
  • Feeling sick or looking different as a result of your treatment
  • Taking care of your family
  • Paying your bills
  • Keeping your job
  • Dying

Some fears about illnesses are based on stories, rumors, or wrong information. To cope with fears and worries, it often helps to be informed. Most people feel better when they learn the facts. They feel less afraid and know what to expect. Learn about your illness and understand what you can do to be an active partner in your care. Some studies even suggest that people who are well-informed about their illness and treatment are more likely to follow their treatment plans and recover from cancer more quickly than those who are not. Do not rely on the internet for accurate information. Talk to your doctor about reliable sources for you to research.

Stress and Anxiety

Both during and after treatment, it's normal to have stress over all the life changes you are going through. Anxiety means you have extra worry, can't relax, and feel tense. You may notice that:

  • Your heart beats faster.
  • You don't feel like eating.
  • You feel sick to your stomach or have diarrhea.
  • You feel shaky, weak, or dizzy.
  • You have a tight feeling in your throat and chest.
  • You sleep too much or too little.
  • You find it hard to concentrate.

If you have any of these feelings, talk to your doctor. Though they are common signs of stress, you will want to make sure they aren't due to medicines or treatment.

Stress can keep your body from healing as well as it should.

The key is to find ways to control your stress and not to let it control you. In therapy you will develop coping skills and relaxation skills to decrease your stress and anxiety.

Sadness and Depression

Naturally when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness you will be sad. You will experience many losses. You will feel a sense of loss of their health, and the life they had before they learned they had the disease. This is a normal response to any serious illness. It will take time to work through and accept all the changes that are taking place, and I will be with you every step of the way.

When you're sad, you may have very little energy, feel tired, or not want to eat. For some, these feelings go away or lessen over time. But for others, these emotions can become stronger and you become depressed. It’s possible your treatment may have added to this problem by changing the way the brain works.

Guilt

Many people with a terminal illness or cancer feel guilty. You may blame yourself for upsetting the people you love or worry that you're a burden in some way. Or, you may envy other people's good health and be ashamed of this feeling. You might even blame yourself for lifestyle choices that you think could have led to your become sick.

These feelings are all very common. It will help for you to share them with someone. I am that support for you.

Loneliness

People who are sick often feel lonely or distant from others. This may be for a number of reasons:

  • Friends sometimes have a hard time dealing with your illness and may not visit or call.
  • You may feel too sick to take part in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy.
  • Sometimes, even when you’re with people that care about you, you may feel that no one understands what you’re going through.

It’s also normal to feel alone when going through this. It’s common to feel cut off from certain friends or family members. Others may want to help but don’t know how. Even though they love you, they just don’t understand, they can’t. None of them know the fear, the confusion, the anger, the helplessness and the despair.

It is important to talk to someone who does understand you and your feelings. It will help you to talk to other people who are ill, or to join a support group. Or, you may feel better talking only to a family member, or counselor, or a member of your spiritual community. Do what feels right for you.

Hope

Once people accept that they have cancer, they often feel a sense of hope. I know that sounds crazy so let me explain. Millions of people who have had cancer are alive today. Your chances of living with cancer—and living beyond it—are better now than they have ever been before. Treatments for cancer have never been as effective as they are today. A cancer that would have been a death sentence 2 years ago can now be successfully treated.

Some doctors think that hope may help your body deal with cancer. So, scientists are studying whether a hopeful outlook and positive attitude helps people feel better. Here are some ways you can build your sense of hope: Research has shown us that a positive attitude is imperative effective for successful treatment.

  • Listen to stories about people with cancer who are leading active lives.
  • Plan your days as you've always done.
  • Don't limit the things you like to do just because you have cancer.
  • Look for reasons to have hope. If it helps, write them down or talk to others about them.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Reflect on your religious or spiritual beliefs.
Gratitude

Some people see their cancer as a "wake-up call." They realize the importance of enjoying the little things in life. They go places they've never been. They finish projects they had started but put aside. They spend more time with friends and family. They mend broken relationships.

It may be hard at first, but you can find joy in your life if you have cancer. Pay attention to the things you do each day that make you smile. They can be as simple as drinking a good cup of coffee, being with a child, or talking to a friend. Whatever you choose, embrace the things that bring you joy when you can.

Ways to Cope with Your Emotions
Express Your Feelings

People have found that when they express strong feelings like anger or sadness, they're more able to let go of them. Some sort out their feelings by talking to friends or family, other cancer survivors, a support group, or a counselor. But even if you prefer not to discuss your cancer with others, you can still sort out your feelings by thinking about them or writing them down. It’s ok to be angry, devastated, and terrified. Let it out, scream, cry, throw things. You are entitled to all of those feelings.

Look for the Positive

Sometimes this means looking for the good even in a bad time or trying to be hopeful instead of thinking the worst. Try to use your energy to focus on wellness and what you can do now to stay as healthy as possible.

Don't Blame Yourself for Your Cancer

Some people believe that they got cancer because of something they did or did not do. But scientists don't know why one person gets cancer and one person doesn't. All bodies are different. Remember, cancer can happen to anyone.

Don't Try to Be Upbeat If You're Not

Many people say they want to have the freedom to give in to their feelings sometimes. As one woman said, “When it gets really bad, I just tell my family I'm having a bad cancer day and go upstairs and crawl into bed.”

You Choose When to Talk about Your Cancer

It can be hard for people to know how to talk to you about your cancer. Often loved ones mean well, but they don't know what to say or how to act. The important thing as that you do what is best for you, not anyone else but you. Talk when you are ready, and tell them what you want them to know, not what they want to know.

Find Ways to Help Yourself Relax

Whatever activity helps you unwind, you should take some time to do it. Meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation exercises are just a few ways that have been shown to help others; these may help you relax when you feel worried. If you are unsure of how to do this, I will teach you during our sessions.

Be as Active as You Can

Getting out of the house and doing something can help you focus on other things besides cancer and the worries it brings. Exercise or gentle yoga and stretching can help too.’’

Look at What You Can Control

Some people say that putting their lives in order helps. Being involved in your health care, keeping your appointments, and making changes in your lifestyle are among the things you can control. Even setting a daily schedule can give you a sense of control. And while no one can control every thought, some say that they try not to dwell on the fearful ones, but instead do what they can to enjoy the positive parts of life. This is not easy to do, but I am here to help you with that.

Getting What You Need From Others

One of the hardest parts of your journey with cancer may be your support system: your family, your friends, your co-workers. People will flock around you because they want to be there for you. But that can also be very overwhelming. People mean well, but it can turn into a burden for you. They may take control and do things “for you” because that is what they think you need, they don’t ask you what you need. At times like this it can be difficult to let them know what you need from them but it is essential that you learn how to do that. Your journey is about you, you need to do what is best for you, not others.

How People May React to Your Cancer
  • Dealing with other’s emotions and beliefs about cancer is challenging. For example, those closest to you might worry about losing you. They may be concerned about how the changes in your life might affect them. It can be hard to deal with the fears of others while you are facing your own.
  • Sometimes people are not sure what to say when they learn you have cancer. Some people are uncomfortable thinking about the possibility of cancer in their own lives. Because of their own fears, they may not know the best way to help you with your illness.
  • People can also pass on incorrect information, false beliefs and myths about cancer. For example, although we don’t yet know what causes most types of cancers, people might try to tell you a reason for your cancer. They might give their opinion about the best cure for cancer. Although they are trying to be helpful, the opposite usually happens.
  • If this happens, speak up and let them know that you appreciate their concern. However, feel free to tell them if they aren't helping you. If the comments of others concern you, talk with someone you trust about what has been said.
What role can your family and friends play?

They may have the best of intentions, but family and friends may overwhelm you with their research efforts. And they can be overly enthusiastic in advocating aggressive treatment when they don't fully understand the side effects and outcomes.

But friends and family are crucial to survival. Numerous studies have correlated cancer survival with social contacts. But know your limits. It's OK to take a rest and regroup.

Set your priorities and acknowledge your limitations and let your family and friends know what that is. Remember, this is about you not them. Your number one priority is taking care of yourself. Let me help you do that.

Please contact me to set up an appointment or a free 15 minute phone consultation.

 

We Must Be Willing to Let Go of the Life we have Planned so as to Have the Life that is Waiting for Us


Constructive Strategies for Rational Living, LLC
Patti Lyons, LMFT

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57 Executive Park South NE
Ste 360
Atlanta, GA 30329

678-464-3941
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