Breast cancer is a personal and unique experience, one that is often filled with many emotional and psychological challenges such as doubt, shock, anger, guilt, insecurities and indecisiveness. We all have our own unique coping styles and there is no right way to cope with breast cancer. The aim of the information provided is to help you to cope and not to tell you how to copy. There are several personal aspects that influence the way you deal with your cancer:
- Your personal nature and qualities
- The way you generally cope with difficulties in your life
- The way you think about events that happen in your life such as cancer diagnosis and treatment
- Circumstances surrounding your diagnosis and treatment
- Available support and resources
- It is essential to acknowledge that you may need professional assistance in coping with the stresses related to the disease process. A psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor can assist you to make sense of the emotional challenges associated with this disease. With each decisive step, you will discover who you are and explore who you want to be in relation to the disease process. Empower yourself by asking questions and seeking the support you need. Below are some of the reasons t enlist help:
- Difficulty in overcoming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Finding it difficult to cope with intense emotions and feelings – anxiety, depression or fear
- Coping with the physical and emotional challenges that are negatively impacting on your relationships, social life or career.
- Feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings, unable to focus, remember details or sleep.
Coping with the Stress Response
The diagnosis of cancer can be a crisis. Your responses are caused by the stress of diagnosis and are modulated by many factors including medical, psychological and interpersonal.
Stress can be understood as a result of an interaction between you and your environment. Nothing is stressful unless you interpret it as such. A stressor can be any event, situation, a person or object that you perceive stressful and that you have difficulty in coping with. For example, you might complain of anxiety or depression when you perceive a future event to be stressful. Usually when you perceive a situation is controllable, it forms an important part of your sense of competence and coping. What is possible is to change your perceptions from negative to positive in order to reduce negative stress so that it does not drag you down and cause unhealthy physical, psychological or behavioural reactions. Everything must have a beginning. Take the initial step to turn your negative stress into positive stress. You have remarkable powers of self-healing. Don’t leave them untapped. You have to believe in yourself. A good beginning makes a good ending.
- Identify your emotional concerns. Be as honest as you can. This can be a difficult process.
- Seek advice and professional assistance
- Try visualisation
- Set goals the SMART way – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and within a Time frame.
- Have a spiritual time daily. Going through inspiring or spiritual reading, praying, listening to music promotes peace and calmness with yourself.
- Indulge in the hobbies that you never had time for previously
- Think of your treatment as ME-TIME
- Try keeping a journal, recording all those fleeting ideas
- Practise muscle-relaxation techniques
- Get seven to eight hours sleep per night
Fear of Cancer Recurrence
Cancer Recurrence is defined as the return of cancer after treatment and/or after many years of not having any indication of cancer. The fear of recurrence is normal. Despite all your efforts, surgery, medication, chemotherapy and radiation, your cancer may recur. You must acknowledge this possibility. Then ask yourself what you can do about it. There are steps you can take to prevent recurrence.
The most basic and critical step involves attitude. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life shivering with fear, thinking the cancer might return. Be absolutely positive that you will be able to remain cancer-free for the rest of your life. You may not eliminate its possible recurrence but, with the right perspective, you will reduce the chances of it recurrence.
Be vigilant – Keep a close eye on your body. Any unusual symptoms or illness which might not be explained can indicate the presence of cancer. However remember, some of the common symptoms of cancer are the same as those for less serious, even harmless, conditions. So try not to become sensitive or obsessive.
Eat properly – Increase your daily intake of fruit and vegetables. Avoid processed foods, limit alcohol as several types of cancer have alcohol link.
Exercise – Obesity can be a factor in the recurrence of cancer. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression, improve mood and reduce symptoms of fatigue.
The risk of cancer recurrence for survivors is different for each person. There is no sure way to keep cancer from coming back after treatment. Even with our current understanding of how it develops and grows, there is no way of knowing if the cancer will return.