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Cancer Support: Dealing With Emotions and Fears - Topic Overview

"When you hear the word 'cancer,' the worry begins. Am I going to survive this? How is it going to affect my family? I couldn't seem to focus on anything except cancer, and I felt like I'd lost control of my own thoughts. A friend suggested starting a journal, and I found that writing out my thoughts allowed me to let go of them a little. Putting them on paper somehow gave them less power over me."—Evelyn, 61

"My first reaction was why did this happen to me? I felt like I didn't deserve a cancer diagnosis, and I was really angry about it. I mentioned to my doctor that I felt angry all the time, and she referred me to a counselor. I was reluctant to try counseling at first, but talking to someone really helped me work through what I was feeling. It was a big relief."—Riley, 48

Anxiety, fear, and emotions

The time after a cancer diagnosis can be very difficult. You and your loved ones may be feeling all kinds of emotions. The path ahead may seem confusing and scary. You probably have anxious thoughts swirling around in your head at all hours of the day and night.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • "I'm afraid of the pain and side effects of treatment."
  • "I worry about how cancer will change my relationship with my spouse."
  • "Am I going to die?"
  • "Who will take care of my family if something happens to me?"
  • "Why me?"
  • "What if I get well, but the cancer comes back later?"
  • "I don't want to be a burden to my friends and family while I'm sick."
  • "I don't know how I'll manage paying all my medical bills."

It's common to have many emotions, or none. Everyone reacts differently. And your feelings may change often, without warning.

Building resilience

Now is the time to focus on your resilience. Resilience is an "inner strength" that helps you bounce back after stressful situations. When you are resilient, you may recover more quickly from setbacks or difficult changes, including illness.

Part of resilience is how you think. Your mind can have a positive or negative effect on your body. Negative emotions, such as worry and stress, can cause tense muscles and pain, headaches, and stomach problems. But having a positive outlook on life might help you better handle pain or stress than someone who is less hopeful.

Here are some tips for building resilience:

  • Accept that things change. Try to look at change as a challenge rather than a threat. You can't change what happens, but you can change how you feel about it.
  • See the big picture. Try to look for things to learn. Difficult or emotional situations can teach you about yourself.
  • Seek out interactions with people who make you feel better. Develop a support network.
  • Take good care of yourself. Take time to do things that you enjoy. Find ways to relax your mind and body.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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