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Health Journey Support | Dealing With Your Feelings

Cancer and treatment can be hard on your body. It can also affect your thoughts and feelings. This brochure describes some of the feelings you may have and some ways to help deal with them.

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Dealing With Your Feelings Br

Dealing with Your Feelings

Cancer and treatment can be hard on your body. It can also affect your thoughts and feelings. Some people with cancer:

  • Feel they need to be strong and protect their loved ones
  • Get help from friends, family, other cancer patients, or counselors
  • Turn to their faith to help them cope

You should decide what is best for you. Try not to compare yourself with others.

Lots of feelings

Here are some feelings you may have:

Feeling overwhelmed. When you have cancer, your routines will change. You may hear medical words you do not understand. It is okay to feel helpless or confused at times.

Denial. This is a feeling of disbelief. It means you have trouble accepting that you have cancer. Denial is not always a negative feeling. It can be a way to give yourself time to adjust. But if denial goes on too long, you might not get the treatment you need.

Anger. Most people with cancer feel angry at times. Asking, "Why me?" is normal. You may get mad at the cancer, at yourself, or at other people. But anger can inspire you to take action. Talking about anger can help you manage it.

Fear and worry. Cancer can be scary. It is normal to worry about:

  • Feeling pain from the cancer or from treatment
  • Feeling too sick to do the things you like
  • Looking different after treatment
  • Taking care of your family
  • Paying bills or keeping your job
  • Dying

Hope. Some people feel hopeful when they accept that they have cancer. There are good reasons to have hope. Millions of people live with cancer. The chances of surviving are better than ever. A hopeful outlook may even help you feel better physically.

Anxiety and stress. Dealing with stress can be difficult. Anxiety can lead to a fast heartbeat, headaches, or an upset stomach. You may get shaky or have trouble sleeping. Paying attention to these feelings can help you cope with them.

Sadness. It is normal to feel sad, even after treatment. If feelings of sadness or tiredness keep getting worse, you may have depression. Talk to your care team if you feel depressed for more than 2 weeks.

Guilt. You may feel like a burden. Or you blame yourself for upsetting your loved ones. This is also normal. Sometimes patients feel guilty for being envious of healthy people. Others might feel like their choices led to the cancer.

Loneliness. What you go through as a cancer survivor can be hard for others to understand. This can make you feel lonely. You may need to stay home instead of meeting friends, family, or coworkers too. Even after treatment, some people miss the support of their care team.

Gratitude. Cancer can feel like a "wake-up call" to be thankful for what you have. You might focus more on the little things. Some people with cancer decide to see new places, finish old projects, or improve relationships.

Ways to deal with feelings

Your care team is a great source of support. Here are some other ways you can cope with feelings:

  • Talk to someone. Talking about your anger, fear, or sadness can be very helpful. Some patients turn to a friend or family member. It may be easier to talk to another cancer survivor. Or you could talk to a counselor. If you decide not to talk to someone, you can write about your feelings instead
  • Look for the positive. Focusing on the good things instead of worrying can help you feel better. This may take some practice, but in time you can train your brain to be more hopeful and positive
  • Avoid self-blame. At times, you may think you got cancer because of something you did or failed to do. Remember that cancer can happen to anyone.
  • Be truthful. You do not need to pretend to be upbeat if you are feeling bad. Give yourself the freedom to have a bad day now and then
  • Find ways to relax. Take some time to do the things that help you unwind. You could try meditation or guided imagery to focus the mind on soothing images and sensations. Sometimes with the help of a nurse educator, you might listen to recordings. These can have soft music, nature sounds, and/or the voice of someone who suggests ways for listeners to relax
  • Stay active. Going outside and doing something physical can distract you from the stress of cancer. Gentle yoga or stretching can also help
  • Look for things you enjoy. Explore a hobby like woodworking or photography. Try watching a new sport. Look into a creative activity like music or drawing
  • Look at what you can control. Some fearful thoughts are bound to creep in, but try not to dwell on these. You can control

Remember that you don't have to go through this alone!