Do you, or someone you know or love, have cancer? If so, you are already keenly aware of cancer anxiety and the distress of a cancer diagnosis.
The uncertainty of prognosis, learning about treatment, and deciding whether to undergo radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of therapies is gut-wrenching. Is there a cure? How long do I have to live? What will happen to my family? Cancer anxiety can be all-consuming, but there are ways to learn how to live free of cancer anxiety.
A Personal Story
I know what cancer anxiety looks and feels like. My spouse was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer that metastasized to the brain. My eldest son braved three years with Stage IV pancreatic cancer before he died in May 2022. Putting on a cheery face and striving to be optimistic is challenging when confronted with dismal odds – and no possibility of a cure.
How did we do it? How can you? Here I’ll share what I’ve learned so that it may help you in your cancer journey. I call them 10 smart ways to live free of cancer anxiety.
10 Smart Ways to Live Free of Cancer Anxiety
Be prepared to go through many changes. Lifestyle changes will occur, along with changes in health, personality, behavior, eating and sleeping habits, desire to interact with others, participation in hobbies or sports, and more. No one diagnosed with cancer is immune to the disruption of their lives. Yet each of us is capable of – and responsible for – learning to maximize our strengths, take advantage of resources readily available, and create the best outcomes possible.
Stay On Top of Research
Billions of dollars in cancer research yield unprecedented treatments, therapies, and medication breakthroughs. There is hope for a cure for many types of cancer within the next decade. This is exciting and incredibly hopeful for anyone with cancer and their support group of family, loved ones, and friends. Thus, the best way to quell cancer anxiety is to learn what’s happening in cancer research.
The National Cancer Institute offers helpful tips for coping with cancer-related anxiety and distress. Research shows that people with cancer deal with anxiety. About half have some anxiety, while about 25 percent have a great deal of anxiety.
Sign up for newsletters to stay on top of the latest research. Some of the websites I’ve found helpful include the following:
- MD Anderson Cancer Center
- National Cancer Institute
- GEN-Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News
- American Cancer Society
- Lung Cancer Foundation of America
- Neuroscience News
- Cancer Research Institute
Embrace Each Day
None of us knows how long we will live. Many don’t think about dying until they face a life-threatening disease. Once we get the diagnosis, however, all that changes. Cancer anxiety rears its ugly head. Each day becomes precious.
For that reason, make it a point to embrace each day. Look at what you can do and go out and do it. Find joy in little things.
I’m incredibly grateful to have time to spend with my spouse. I’m also thankful for my time (albeit long-distance due to COVID-19) with my son after his diagnosis. Whether you have cancer and experience cancer anxiety or you care for someone with cancer, express your gratitude for the blessings you have been given. Expressing gratitude for the kindness of others or silently to God or your Higher Being helps you as well.
Be Optimistic and Forward-Looking
Cancer breakthroughs include rigorous research into the DNA sequencing of 12,000+ tumors. A new test is now available to help diagnose one of the deadliest cancers: pancreatic cancer. Yet some of the most promising breakthroughs in cancer research include using artificial intelligence and precision oncology to improve cancer diagnosis and treatments.
What does this mean for someone with cancer today? It offers hope that new treatments and therapies can extend lives and improve quality of life. Always be optimistic. Also, look forward to continuing advancements in cancer research.
Join a Support Group
Sometimes you need a break from non-stop doctor visits, treatments, scans, getting prescriptions refilled, and travel time to accomplish these necessary errands. It can get overwhelming – for you and your family.
Sometimes you and your loved ones and family need outside help to reassure you that all is not lost and to talk with others who know what you’re going through. Consider joining a support group, either in person or online. There’s always help when you need it, even if that’s just to let you know you are not alone.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Feeling down and keeping it to yourself may seem kind. But it is not. Suffering silently and being unwilling to ask for help hurts you and those you love. It is okay to say you’d appreciate some assistance getting meals, going out for some sunshine in nature, visiting friends, going to a movie, or eating out.
Your loved ones, family members, and friends want to do what they can to bring a smile to your face and spend time with you.
Surround Yourself with Positive Friends
Remember the cartoon with Charlie Brown and the dark cloud above his head? Instead of hanging your head down and thinking gloomy thoughts, be with upbeat, positive friends. There is no better way to cheer up than to spend time with people you enjoy.
- Have a few laughs.
- Watch a game or movie on TV.
- Play cards or a board game.
Check Off Your Bucket List
If you love to travel, check off places on your travel bucket list if the doctor gives the okay. While I’ve never been to Australia, it’s a destination I’ve always longed to visit. Returning to the Hawaiian Islands for a month’s stay is another trip on our list. What about you?
Besides, it’s fun to make plans to go on a vacation. And you and your loved one deserve this. You’ll find cancer anxiety melts away in the sunshine on a tropical beach or while you lose yourself wandering through ancient ruins.
Learn New Things
Is there something you want to learn but put off because you thought you wouldn’t have the energy or time to devote? For several months (more than half a year), I neglected my writing. I had no physical or mental energy left to tend to my passion at day’s end. I also felt it would take time from my loved one, who needed me so much.
What I learned, though, is that each of us must pursue what gives us joy. Even if it’s for a brief time, do what you love. You’ll feel renewed in spirit and have more to offer.
Live a Vibrant Life of Purpose
What is the secret to life? I find the greatest joy in living a vibrant life of purpose. That means doing my best each day to fulfill my dreams, being kind to others, listening more than speaking, giving back more than taking, and being grateful for all I have.
I am blessed to have talent I can share with others through my writing. Despite life’s challenges and pitfalls, I feel fortunate to have had many excellent teachers who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. This wisdom has comforted me during times of cancer anxiety.
My advice to each of you is to live your life fully. Live a vibrant life. It is the best gift you can give yourself and those you love.
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