The Courage to Cope With Cancer
This post is also available in: Melayu (Malay)
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We are aware of the importance of health psychology in helping people to heal better, especially for a life changing illness like cancer. Health psychology can help cancer patients and cancer survivors make positive adjustments in dealing with cancer. As for caregivers, health psychologist can aid in developing effective communication skills with cancer patients to avoid caregiving burnout.
THE COURAGE TO COPE WITH CANCER: 5 KEY TAKEAWAYS
Cancer diagnosis can turn our world upside down. Our “normal” might not be the same as other people’s normal and it can be ever changing. We will expect to witness myriad changes in our cancer journey. From seeing our medical team to having support from family and friends, there are many ways to help cope with the challenges of dealing with cancer. Maintaining a positive spirit is crucial in coping with cancer. However, there are times when we will need help from the professionals.Here are some helpful tips:
Cancer diagnosis comes with a wide kaleidoscope of emotions. Learning that we have cancer can leave us shocked, helpless, and sometimes even in denial; especially when we have been leading a healthy lifestyle. We might find it difficult to accept a cancer diagnosis but managing emotions is crucial in good cancer care.
Dr Hari’s Advice:
IT IS OKAY TO HAVE EMOTIONS. It is normal that a range of emotions follow from a cancer diagnosis, including shock, anger, denial, or numbness because they are normal reactions to abnormal and unexpected situations. These emotions are actually coping strategies in dealing with cancer news. They help us to process the large influx of information we get at the same time.
BUT, WE NEED TO MANAGE OUR EMOTIONS. If the emotions that we have, affect us in the long run, for instance refusal to go for medical appointments or intentionally participating in activities that can potentially harm us, then it has to be managed accordingly.
HOW PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT CAN HELP. Psychologists can help us to process a cancer diagnosis in a more realistic manner, by identifying the source of our emotions, reframing and reconstructing our thoughts and further eliciting our intrinsic motivation to get better so that we can manage our emotions better.
Different people receive, process and understand bad and unexpected news differently. Nevertheless, it is important to communicate a cancer diagnosis to our loved ones. Sharing this is not an easy task but by doing so, we can deal with cancer with the support of a group of people that we love.
Dr Hari’s Advice:
SHARE THE NEWS WITH YOUR LOVED ONES. It is important that our loved ones understand what is happening to us. They are able to see, hear and sense the changes in us. Leaving them in the dark may make them feel helpless, unloved, and even guilty. Sharing the news with them will become a strength in return when they support us throughout the journey.
COMMUNICATE WITH EMPATHY. Be with our spouse or someone that we trust when we share the news. We have to be emphatic in the communication as the diagnosis does not just affect us but it will also affect our loved one’s lives.
SHARE THE RIGHT INFORMATION. We should share information about the illness, possibilities of changes in us, ways that the loved ones can be of help, and always focus on how our love for them will not change. We should also plan for quality time with family so that they do not feel that they are secondary to the diagnosis.
HOW PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT CAN HELP. Psychologist can help us to build the confidence in breaking cancer diagnosis to our loved ones by enhancing our communication skills, conducting role plays to practice potential scenarios of sharing the news and prepare us for any eventual outcomes.
There is no denying that cancer changes our lives, including our identity. It could even change the roles and responsibilities that we used to take up in our lives. It can be difficult for us and people around us to adjust to the changes. However, we will need to manage the expectation accordingly so that we can deal with cancer better.
Dr Hari’s Advice:
BE PREPARED FOR CHANGES IN ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY. Our daily routine can change substantially because it will now be filled with medical appointments, and follow-up treatments. We might not be able to participate in things that we used to enjoy because of the physical challenges that we need to go through in cancer treatment; we might also find it difficult to concentrate at work after the treatment.
SELECTIVE PERCEPTION IS NORMAL. Often, we see things the way we want to perceive them in order confirm our “skewed” view of events. For instance, we might perceive a sigh from a colleague during the board meeting as frustration at our lack of performance when it could actually mean other things. In cancer, we have the tendency to surround ourselves in a negative sphere. We are trapped in the pessimistic bubble and we do not realize that our thoughts do not necessarily reflect the reality.
HOW PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT CAN HELP. Psychologists can help us to identify the distorted perceptions that we have, assist us with reframing it and help us to set realistic expectations of ourselves using a technique called “Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
A support system help us to appreciate that we are not alone in dealing with cancer. It helps us to feel more in control the experience and gives us more confidence to overcome difficult symptoms or side effects.
Dr Hari’s Advice:
IT IS NORMAL TO SEE CHANGES IN LIFE. A diagnosis of illness, especially cancer, can cause significant changes in our lives, including physical health, food patterns, and daily routines. When changes occur, we are in need of support and we can feel alienated because the support we get is not the support we need.
WE NEED A GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM. We need both emotional and informational support in dealing with cancer. This will help us likely fare better as we can comply and adhere to the required treatment protocols. We recover quicker when we are emotionally healthier.
THE MEDICAL TEAM IS PART OF OUR SUPPORT SYSTEM. Support does not just come from our friends and family. We should also have access as early as the time of our diagnosis to professional medical teams, which comprises of medical doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists, dietitians and psychologists.
HOW PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT CAN HELP. Psychologists can help us by providing therapy to help us work out how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings and make positive changes. They also support us in developing tangible skills to regain control and rebuild our lives.
Our caregiver, whether a family or friend plays a vital role in our cancer recovery journey. It is important to communicate with them without any sort of judgment or resentment, including our caregivers.
Dr Hari’s Advice:
REJECTION OF COMMUNICATION IS COMMON. Rejection of caregiver’s attempt to communicate is common in dealing with cancer because we feel that caregivers just do not get us – that they do not understand what we are going through.
COMMUNICATE THE RIGHT WAY. Communication with cancer patients must be filled with empathy. We should not provide false reassurances to patients. More often than not, patients just need a pair of ears to listen to their concerns and a pair of hands to hold them when they are in need. They do not need people to tell them what to do and what not to do, especially at the early stage of cancer diagnosis.
HOW PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT CAN HELP. Psychology can help us by guiding us through the skill of therapeutic communication to help patients to feel that others see and feel things the way they do. In dealing with cancer, a session with a professional can benefit both caregivers and patients as they can learn communication skills that are therapeutic in nature to help patients to recover better, maintain better relationships between caregiver and patients, enhance quality of life and, prevent caregiver from burning out.
Cancer is only one of the many dimensions of our lives. We should never let cancer define how we want to live our lives. At Naluri, we have a team of professionally trained and experienced psychologists to help you through your journey. We can help you to identify the concerns that you have, reframe your thoughts, and further help you to reconstruct your thoughts in coping with cancer. Let Naluri be part of your healing process, let us be the fuel to your courage in dealing with cancer.