How to Support Yourself When Going Through Cancer
Treatment for cancer has come a long way over the past few decades. However, dealing with the consequences of diagnosis, and its flurry of emotions, is as challenging as it has ever been. So much so, in fact, that many cancer patients develop mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorders. Here are a few areas to focus on which may help ground you, and bring a sense of control back into your life.
After diagnosis, positivity may seem trivial or elusive. Well-being, whether it's emotional, physical, or spiritual, needs it. Positive thinking can be an effective way to counter stress. Part of this is recognising happy moments. Consider recording them in a journal to process why those moments brought you joy. Additionally, be aware how others love you, your accomplishments, and your progress. Combining this with thoughts of a brighter future may help process even your hardest days. Spirituality might be beneficial to this mindset. If you're religious, take time to pray and give thanks. Alternatively, you could adopt an outlook centred on meditation to sort things internally. Whatever speaks to you can be a valuable tool in managing the stress and strain of the present.
Making time for yourself isn't easy. It can be exhausting, but moving towards remission makes self-care essential. Exercise is one form. It may alleviate fatigue and pain, as well as combat depression and improve mood. Working out can be done with others, and might encompass dance classes, yoga, or hiking. If that's too much, walking around your neighbourhood or park can be enough. No matter what, get ample sleep to help healing and regeneration. Prioritising self-care can also mean realising long-held ambitions and goals. You might have had a desire to take pottery lessons, go back to school, or even travel to Paris. This time, though difficult, can be an opportunity to fulfil your aspirations. Self-care may also mean reducing responsibilities. Delegate tasks to loved ones to ease some of the load. Consider, as well, time off work, or switching to part-time, if it proves too draining or clashes with treatment.
Asking for help can be hard, but if you have family and friends, then please do. It can be a godsend during treatment, giving you time to rest and recuperate. Accepting support can also make loved ones feel better at a time when they may feel powerless. As a start, consider creating a list of your responsibilities to see what could be dispersed. This could be chores, like doing dishes and vacuuming, meal preparation, and childcare. Emotional support will also be essential through treatment. Open up to loved ones, tell them when you are struggling or down. Consider, also, joining support groups. It might not be easy to confide in strangers, but speaking with those who have shared experiences can truly be a source of strength and comfort. You may, in the process, make friendships that endure beyond treatment.
Relief is a critical component of self-care during treatment. Everyone deserves to have relief, especially from pain. There may be a concern, however, that opioid use may result in addiction. That’s why you should be sure to look into all available forms of pain management, including medication, physiotherapy, occupational therapy (including relaxation training), psychological support, acupuncture or massage. It's also important to be mindful when using opioids. Vigilance will ensure that pain relief remains just that, and works for you, rather than against you. Be aware of troubling symptoms, like compulsions to take more than prescribed, or using medication to help you deal with upsetting emotions rather than to relieve pain. It's imperative to communicate any concerns to your doctors. Do not, however, suddenly get off your pain relief. As you come off medication, you may have withdrawal symptoms. However, do not interpret this as addiction, as this is a normal part of the process.
Self-care shouldn't take a back seat after diagnosis. Looking after your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being can potentially raise your quality of life. Surround yourself with loved ones, try to find positivity to help you through even your hardest days, and remind yourself that you are moving towards a brighter future free of disease.
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