Mental Health Tip: Change How You Think About A Cancer Diagnosis

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I had always been a positive thinker and an all-around jolly person. I was the type of friend who could laugh at others’ snarky remarks about myself without getting angry. I did not mind making a fool of myself sometimes either to see my loved ones laugh. And no matter what curveball tried to flatten or knock me over, I continued to stand tall, smiling.

My optimism slightly decreased when I noticed that I was getting more bruises all over my body. I was used to seeing one or two on my legs or arms back then, especially before my menstruation, so I did not worry about it. However, when more spots appeared on my other body parts, my friends saw them and grilled me for hours because the bruises make me looked like a battered girlfriend. After assuring them that my boyfriend was almost saint-like, they urged me to go to a doctor to find out what’s happening to my body.

One (Un)Fortunate Diagnosis

Another week passed since I met with my friends, and I thought they had already forgotten about my bruises. So, I was surprised when they barged in my house at the weekend, demanding to know what the doctor said. Grinning sheepishly, I uttered, “Uhm, I haven’t gotten around to finding a physician, guys. But that’s okay; I feel fine.”

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Suspicious, my friends inspected my body for bruises. I just lifted my arms as if they measured my sizes, confident that they would be greenish at that point – a sign of healing. When they raised the shirt from the back, though, I heard a collective gasp. I looked around and saw them staring on the lower-left portion of my back. “Why are you dramatic?” I asked.

“Well,” my best friend said carefully, “There is new bruising on your back, perhaps almost the size of a saucer. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Huh. I did not have a full mirror in the house, so my back was a blind spot for me. For the first time in my life, I forgot how to smile. I sat down and voiced out, “What do I do?”

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My friends, as supportive as ever, started making calls. Though none of us knew the problem, we knew that my case was not meant for a general practitioner. One of them eventually managed to book an appointment for me on that day. I did not want to go since I felt scared, but they said that it’s better to know the truth now than to live in a lie, so I allowed them to accompany me to the doctor’s office.

When we arrived, the specialist ordered the nurse to take my blood samples immediately. While waiting for the results, the doctor chatted with me about how I had been feeling in the last few weeks. I told him honestly that I did not feel much difference in my body, except for the bruising and sometimes shortness of breath. The nurse then returned with the test result, which showed that I had an abnormally high number of white blood cells compared to red blood cells.

The doctor said, “Hmm, having plenty of white blood cells typically indicates that a person has anemia, and that’s quite easy to remedy with iron supplements and more sleep. However, because of the bruising, you may have leukemia. I’m sorry.”

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My insides collapsed as soon as I heard the L word. I thought I was healthy all my life, but it turned out that I had blood cancer. The doctor added that I was lucky to get diagnosed in the first stage of the disease, but I felt anything but a winner at the time. 

Changing My Mindset About Cancer Diagnosis

When my friends gave me a ride home, none of us spoke. But they told me before I got off that I should call them any time of the day if I needed something. I naturally nodded and waved bye with a forced smile on my face. After that, I turned off my phone and did not come out of the house for two weeks straight, depressed over the cancer diagnosis.

Nevertheless, my deceased mother visited me in my dream one night. It seemed so real when she hugged me and asked, “What’s wrong, baby girl?”

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I repeated what the doctor told me, sobbing. Mom said, “Hush, sweetheart. Having cancer does not always mean that you’ll die soon, especially when it is only at stage one. Instead, you should be glad that you found out before it’s already irreversible.”

I woke up feeling light the next day. With my optimism restored, I called my friends and informed them that I wanted to undergo treatment ASAP to beat leukemia’s butt. They cheered me on and took turns accompanying me to my treatment sessions. 

Now, not only am I cancer-free, but my mental health is also more formidable than ever.

The Impact Of Cancer On Family Life

 

 

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Just as anybody with cancer is aware, a diagnosis of cancer also impacts family members and significant others. At times, the complicated emotions and lifestyle modifications caused by the illness, along with its treatment, can be overwhelming for loved ones as they are also for you. Knowing the possible changes in how you relate to particular members of the family and close friends may be able to help you take the necessary steps to build stable and equally compassionate relationships during these challenging times.

Couples and Partners

Cancer has a tremendous impact on marriages and long-term relationships. When the diagnosis is made, both individuals may feel sad, angry, anxious, hopeless, or depressed. The side effects of cancer differ from couple to couple. For some, confronting the trials brought about by cancer further intensifies their bond. But for others, the anxiety and stress of the illness create new challenges that could magnify existing problems.

Some of the changes that frequently present in relationships include:

Cancer modifies roles. Someone who has been used to being in charged or functioned as the main caregiver might have difficulty acknowledging a more reliant role. Or someone who has not played those roles may have trouble taking charge or providing sufficient care. A spouse might try to take control by being an expert in a particular aspect of cancer. He might attempt to make changes to the treatment schedules or communicate with the medical team. If you have both agreed to this, it might even help you deal with the disease. However, it is vital that you listen to each other’s needs and wants and try to remain open-minded.

  • Physical needs. These needs that might arise as a result of cancer may alter throughout the course of the illness. It is crucial that spouses talk about what they need. Reaching out and helping each other with the usual activities of daily living, like dressing up or brushing your teeth might become difficult eventually. But your spouse may not be aware that you need help, so it is important that you talk freely and clearly communicate your needs. This helps prevent frustration and bitterness that could lead to misinterpretation of your partner’s behavior.

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  • Emotional needs. Each individual’s emotional needs may vary or change all the time and partners might need more reassurance that the love is still there. Couples must be sensitive to the altering emotional requirements that come with the disease. They might also want to think about discussing their concerns with a mental health counselor, together or on their own.

 

Partners who care for their significant other with cancer may probably find it hard to fully express all their feelings because they are afraid of hurting their partner. On the other hand, the loved one with cancer must also be able to talk about how she feels to someone who can manage the intensity of her emotions without being dazed or burdened.

 

Cancer often alters a couple’s future plans. Travel or retirement plans may change and this causes feelings of depression, bitterness, or anger perhaps. Working together in managing your priorities helps to gradually create fresh goals, like finishing the cancer treatment or having a baby for new couples. Things that used to be a priority prior to the cancer diagnosis might become less important. It would be wise to put the other plans on hold instead of instantly changing them, as it would inspire you to look forward to the future.

Family Members and Friends

The impact of cancer on your bonds with family and friends differ greatly, depending on how close you are to them. Some families have various communication and handling techniques. Think about how family members will respond in times of crises and they have managed other problems in your family life. This will definitely help you create your own strategies for breaking the news to them and seeking their support.

Below are some recommendations that would help you to make proper adjustments to relationship changes with family members and friends.

 

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Anticipate your bonds to change in one way or another. A lot of people have very little experience with life-threatening diseases like cancer so they may have no idea how to react or what to say. Some may be scared after learning about your cancer. Others how may have loved ones who died of cancer may recall the hurtful memories. Because of this, some of your family members and friends might not be capable of providing the support and care that you expect from them.

Indeed, this is painful. But just remember that these responses may be the result of their past encounters and losses and certainly not how they feel about you. Some of your close friends may keep some distance from you, but others will amaze you with their physical and emotional support throughout the course of your illness. So keep the spirit going and encourage yourself to find the good in your loved ones. Let them help and love you. Finally, always remember to be grateful for family and friends. They are treasures for life.

 

 

COVID-19 And Cancer: What You Need To Know

Imagine an ordinary individual getting all anxious and scared of the Coronavirus infection. There’s too much stress manifestation that can happen. But how much more pressure do you think there is if a person is currently a cancer patient or a survivor? What do you think he feels that this pandemic is causing so much commotion in the health sector? Here are a couple of things you need to know about cancer and COVID-19.

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The Risk Of COVID-19 While Getting An Active Cancer Treatment

For a cancer patient that undergoes an active treatment, they are genuinely at higher risk of developing infections such as COVID-19. Because of this, the individual needs to self-quarantine at home. Fortunately, they can still be around family members. There is no need to self-isolate in certain parts of the house or a particular room. However, it is essential to note that family members that have contact outside should practice social distancing and sanitation as much as possible. That way, they won’t become the carrier of the virus and protect the cancer patient at home.

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Necessary COVID-19 Test For A Cancer Patient

If an individual has cancer or has had previously suffered from one, he does not necessarily need to get a COVID-19 test. That is if he does not experience any signs and symptoms of the infection, such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath. But if the patient does have these symptoms, it is highly suggested to call a medical professional and let these experts know about the situation. That way, the health professionals can guide the patient where to go from there. It is important to note that the patient must be honest about his experience as much as possible to avoid further confusion and additional health damage.

Cancer Treatments Offered By The Community

Despite the people’s struggle of the pandemic, the community continues to provide radiation, chemotherapy infusions, as well as necessary surgeries on selected hospital care. Health care professionals are passionate about maintaining standard assistance to the patient with or without COVID-19 infection. Community health professionals consider taking extra precautions to avoid getting and spreading the virus. However, some services get pushed off to minimize patients’ exposure to Coronavirus when they need medical facilitation. Some of these are undergoing surveillance, office visits, follow check-ups, CAT scans, and MRIs.

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Availability Of Cancer Team During COVID-19 Pandemic

The cancer team is still available during this pandemic situation. In fact, the team becomes more accessible than before. There are nurse navigators, psychologists, psychiatrists, physical experts, nurses, doctors, and social workers. That is because most health professionals use technology to connect with their patients. They utilize technological communication to allow them to have more time to make phone calls and always be there with their patient. Thus, there is nothing to worry about, and patients can still reach out anytime they need assistance.

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Bringing A Friend Or Family Member On Patient Appointments

Unfortunately, there are more restrictions in this time of pandemic that a cancer patient should follow. Thus, with regards to bringing another person to accompany a cancer patient to his doctor’s appointment is highly unadvisable. It is mandatory for health care industries not to allow visitors. However, considering the patient’s comfortability and emotional stability, health professionals allow video conferencing or calls and putting it on speakerphones. That way, the patient can get a hold of family members despite not being able to come in chemotherapy sessions, office visits, or any medical appointments.

It is okay that cancer patients feel scared and stressed during this pandemic. But they have to remember to stay positive because health care professionals are still more than willing to serves their needs no matter what.

Struggle Of Cancer Patients During An Outbreak

Based on the available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals who are older (over the age of 65) are at higher risk of getting infected with COVID-19. However, the data also shows that those patients with underlying medical conditions, regardless of their age, are prone to the virus infection as well. Some of these conditions to look out for are lung disease, diabetes, and cancer. With that information, it becomes challenging for those people who have a weaker immune system to avoid getting sick. The situation adds pressure because the struggle during this pandemic outbreak is too complicated for them.

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The Risk Of Getting COVID-19 Infection

Patients with a weakened immune system are potentially at risk of the Coronavirus infection. Since their defense system is vulnerable already due to their current condition, the possibility of getting infected triples their chances. Some medical conditions include lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, and other blood-related cancer that directly affects cells of the body. Unfortunately, all individuals experiencing these health-related conditions, even if it is a mild one is at risk. Also, including those patients who are undergoing chemotherapy therapy are not exempted. With all this information, there is too much burden to bear. Most notably, for those patients who struggle to recover and survive.

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Symptoms Of COVID-19 In Cancer Patients

Symptoms of the COVID-19 infection are all the same in cancer patients’ general population. For the most part, all of them experience coughing, sneezing, headache, fever, and respiratory problems. However, one exemption to the possibility of shared symptoms is when patients get treated with steroids or other medications that treat lymphoma and leukemia. That is because the substances of these medications can suppress the development of fever and can only show signs of minor coughing without sneezing. Therefore, there is a tendency that even if patients are positive with the virus, they may end up asymptomatic due to the effect of the medication the patients currently intake. However, in general rule, cancer patients must not ignore even a single symptom of the Coronavirus. Considering their weak condition, coughing, fever, and shortness of breath may appear normal, but it is not. Therefore, if these warning signs persist, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately. If you feel you might overthink things, seek a consultation from professionals at BetterHelp.

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Test Positive For COVID-19 While Undergoing Cancer Treatment

It is essential to understand that cancer patients are the ones vulnerable to get infected at this rate. So if they test positive while undergoing chemotherapy treatment, considerations have to be made. The patients and health doctors should discuss the things they need to do to secure recovery. They need to understand that the decision on whether cancer patients need to stop or continue with any treatment process depends on a variety of factors. Some of these factors are the stage of the chemotherapy treatment, the physical condition of the individual undergoing treatment, and the severity of the Coronavirus infection to the cancer patients. It is essential that both parties understand the consequences of the situation.

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What The Cancer Patients Can Do

In a critical moment like this, cancer patients should understand that protecting their health at all costs is their priority. Whether that maybe their physical, emotional, and mental. Therefore they must recognize the practice of frequent hand hygiene. It is vital to ensure washing hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. If water is not available, utilizing hand sanitizers can be an option as well. But it should contain at least 60% alcohol in it. Cancer patients and health providers should also avoid anyone that is sick. If possible, they should minimize exposure to people in large crowds as well. Thus, they should practice physical distancing and limit any forms of physical engagements

The Saving Grace Of Cancer When It Comes To Marriage

  

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Whether cancer comes before or after marriage diversifies a patient’s reaction to the diagnosis. If it occurs when you are still single, for instance, the chances of taking it with a confident heart and mind are high. Once you receive the news when you are about to build a family, then various kinds of worry may become mainstays in your head.

For one, there is the nagging fear that your husband or wife will file for divorce after learning of your incurable disease. In case you are a guy, you might be anxious about not being able to provide the needs of your family during the recovery process. For women, it is possible to worry that the treatments are harsh enough to decrease your ability to bring a child to full term. Witht that, “In the lives of those experiencing anxiety, anxiety has almost always served a purpose as a survival function at some point. ” says Karin Draper, LMFT.

Despite that, making the cancer diagnosis known to you and your partner is a must. You cannot guarantee it immediately, but it may even strengthen or save your marriage in more ways than one.

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Research Says It All

If we speak of facts, a study reveals that single men have a 27% higher chance of dying from any cancer than a married man within the first three years of having the illness. The number is 19% when it comes to women, yet the scenario remains the same – bachelorettes have a low probability of surviving from the disease compared to married patients.

The reason, according to Scarlett Lin Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, is not just because of the better insurance plan that a spouse may extend to the ill husband or wife. It is also not solely due to having a more considerable amount of money to pool together when seeking a suitable treatment. Instead, the research suggests that cancer-laden individuals live longer than many since they get a stable support system through their significant other.

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Being Married Is Better Than Staying Single In The Face Of Cancer

You can imagine how accurate that claim is right now. When you are dealing with the condition for months, it is effortless to feel depressed if you are alone. Erica Thompson, LMFT, LPCC  explains that “Mental health struggles are real. They can be painful. You may feel alone. In some of the darkest times, you may feel like something is “wrong” with you to the core. ” You have no one to voice out your fears to or assure you that everything will go back to normal. Considering you hate burdening your friends and relatives regarding your meals or doctor’s appointments, you might push yourself to cook or drive to the clinic on your own, respectively.

In case you are with your better half, though, there is no need for you to request if he or she can do the latter. That is already a given, especially if your relationship has always been healthy even before the cancer news came. The constant trips to the hospital or check-ins with your partner’s emotions may, in fact, boost the bond that ties you to each other.

Likewise, not needing to oversee different aspects of life besides the medication relieves the stress of a patient as well. It allows healing to take place fast, which is quite an impossible feat when you cannot rely on anybody.

In Conclusion

Cancer itself is incapable of breaking a marriage. If the connection between the husband and wife is powerful, they will not split regardless of whatever disease one or both of them acquire over time. If anything, watching the ill spouse go through this condition may bring the couple together faster than any counseling method out there. Dana Baduna, PhD, LMFT believes that “Participating together as a couple gives the partners the opportunity to pay closer attention to one another and listen more intimately to their needs, wants, and dissatisfactions, thus establishing a closer bond and a more intimate connection.” And that is something.

Why Many Cancer Survivors End Up Staying Single 

In various posts throughout this website, you will see me talking about the benefits of having a spouse when you are a cancer patient. There’s someone who’ll never leave your side even if you are not blood-related; he or she already knows what you want or need before you even ask. Your better half can also serve as your anchor into this world when worse comes to worst. 

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How To Have A Healthy Marriage After Cancer Diagnosis 

Cancer is among the many incurable diseases that make people’s knees wobble. Anything will do except for that because it is an ultra-sensitive and expensive condition in comparison with the likes of diabetes, skin asthma, and much more. The survival rate varies as well, depending on which organs the cancer cells get activated. 

However, is it possible to keep your marriage healthy if you cannot escape a cancer diagnosis? 

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Radiation Therapy Goals And Adverse Effects

 

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Is the thought of radiation therapy giving you panic attacks or increased anxiety? If you are about to undergo radiation therapy, being oriented and knowledgeable about the procedure can ease your worries, making the process more bearable.

 

Radiation therapy is a kind of treatment utilizing proton beams or high energy x-rays targeting cancer cells to destroy or shrink them.

 

Radiation Therapy – Goals

Medical practitioners who supervise radiation therapy are called oncologists. Radiation oncologists are experts in using radiation treatment in slowing the growth of the tumor or destroying cancer cells while making sure that adjacent healthy tissues are not affected.

 

In most cases, the primary treatment given by oncologists to cancer patients is either chemotherapy or surgery with radiation therapy as the secondary treatment. Radiation therapy is then referred to as an adjuvant therapy that targets cancer cell residues that were not taken out during the primary treatment. On other occasions, physicians would advise radiation therapy as the primary treatment depending on the severity or status of the condition.

 

Majority of cancer patients receive a particular kind of radiation therapy because there are conditions wherein radiation therapy alone is enough to treat the illness. On the other hand, some cancers respond best when combining treatments, including surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy.

 

Radiation Therapy – Side Effects

Every drug has positive and negative effects on the body. Though radiation therapy is a recommended effective treatment for various forms of cancer, like other treatment modalities, it also causes a wide range of side effects that may or may not be temporary. Adverse results vary on the type of cancer, the location, the dose, and the overall health of the patient.

 

The thing about radiation therapy is that it’s a localized treatment, which means that the only part that will be affected is the one where the cancer cells are brewing. But there are common adverse effects of radiation therapy regardless of location, and these are:

 

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  1. Fatigue

Chronic exhaustion or the feeling of being overly tired most of the time is one of the leading side effects of any cancer treatment, let alone radiation therapy. A cancer patient’s severity of fatigue will also depend if there are other treatments involved aside from radiation therapy.

 

  1. Skin Irritation

Some cancer patients who are receiving radiation therapy tend to experience skin peeling, blistering, dryness, or itching. However, these adverse skin reactions are confined to a particular area of the skin that was exposed to radiation therapy. Developing skin problems during treatment is normal and will ease away a couple of weeks after treatment is given.

 

  1. Lasting Effects

Though the majority of adverse effects are relieved in time after receiving treatment, there are those that persist or develop later on. Some of these lasting or late effects would include the development of another type of cancer, but the risk of that occurring due to radiation therapy is uncommon.

 

  1. Localized Side Effects

Aside from the general adverse effects, there are localized side effects that are entirely dependent on the location and type of radiation. If radiation therapy is given around the head and neck, the patient may experience gum sores, dryness of mouth, difficulty swallowing, tooth decay, and jaw stiffness. If radiation therapy is given at the chest, the patient may show breathing difficulties, the stiffness of the shoulders, fever, and cough, and fibrosis.

 

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Good news is, side effects caused by radiation therapy can be prevented or treated by palliative care. Managing and preventing adverse effects is a significant part of treating cancer.

 

 

Counseling For Cancer Patients: Alleviating Negative Responses Against The Illness

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For conflicted people who are having a hard time processing their chaotic emotions, counseling is always the best solution in controlling and responding to the demands of life in healthy, non-destructive ways.

But don’t expect counselors or therapists to solve your problems for you; it doesn’t work that way. Yes, “It’s true that therapy isn’t for everyone and it’s not a magic cure. You still must be proactive and be willing to do the work to improve your situation.” Daisy Chow, LPC, NCC said. They do, however, provide a safe space for people who are going through a rough time, who want to air out their concerns. Counseling is also finding a trained professional to provide unbiased feedback and suggest effective treatment modalities. For this reason, cancer patients are recommended to seek help from counselors who specialize in oncology cases.

Counseling Types

Cancer patients can choose from different forms of counseling based on their preferences, finances, and needs. The common counseling types are:

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  1. Individual Counseling

For cancer patients who want a more private conversation, individual counseling is the best option. Usually, there are those who are more comfortable sharing their grievances, situations, and emotions with just the counselor. But Elana Schechtman-Gil LMFT reminds everyone that “The foundation of therapy is based on the relationship you build with your therapist. When seeking someone out it’s important you feel comfortable with them ”

During individual counseling, the counselor will ask a couple of personal questions, then he or she would listen to what is being shared, express concern, and offer feedback. Feedbacks would also include suggesting treatment methods that can help with the person’s mental health.

  1. Group Counseling

Technically, group counseling consists of a number of people who have similar problems that meet together to share and discuss situations that pertain to that particular issue. Most of the time, counselors will initiate the discourse then after each member has aired out their thoughts and feelings, guidance and support will be provided. The good thing about group therapies is that cancer patients who feel lonely or are leaning towards depression would realize that they are not the only one fighting a difficult battle. Group counseling provides insight and comfort from its members. “By building a list of people that you trust, with whom you can talk to in times of need, you allow yourself a strong sense of not being alone.” David Klow, a licensed therapist explains.

  1. Family Or Couples Counseling

Cancer patients are not the only ones who are mentally and emotionally affected. People who are surrounding them, especially partners and family members, also suffer from the effects of the condition on their relationship and connection. During family or couples counseling, the counselor would allow everyone to speak up and share their experiences or whatever pent-up emotions they have. Counselors are keen on finding out specific reactions and thoughts that increase the level of stress and conflict between members of the family.

Issues Tackled During Counseling

People often wonder how counseling can help with their issues especially those who are struggling with the effects of cancer. Some of the problems or challenges that are tackled during sessions are:

  • Exploring what cancer has taught you
  • Determine ways on how to cope with the diagnosis to make patients feel in control and less overwhelmed
  • Contemplate on workplace strategies and issues
  • Manage symptoms and side effects of cancer treatment
  • Help develop coping mechanisms for anxiety and depression
  • Learn effective communication with the medical team
  • Address concerns about finances and relationships
  • Teaches the patient’s family how to adjust and understand routine changes caused by a cancer diagnosis

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When To Ask For Help

The feeling of despair and distress are normal reactions to the realization of a cancer diagnosis. But if the feeling does not go away after a couple of weeks, counseling must be taken into consideration. Seeking professional help is vital for cancer patients’ mental health and also necessary in learning effective ways to cope with the condition and not interfere with life’s routines.

Remember, you always have the option to ask for help especially if you feel hopeless and helpless. Living life with cancer is challenging, but if you know where to turn to, you’ll find comfort amidst the condition. If you want to seek help, you can consult a professional at BetterHelp. Try sending them a message through their Facebook page or their LinkedIn.