Coping After Cancer
One in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, but no longer is this a “death sentence.” More than half of these people will be cured, and many others will live for years with their cancer under control. There are more than 8 million cancer survivors in America today, and that number is growing.
If you or a loved one has had cancer, you know that life is never the same after the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. For many cancer survivors, new coping skills are sometimes needed to effectively leave worries behind and embrace the future. The following suggestions might help:
- Put guilt and blame aside. This includes putting the “Why me?” questions behind you, and letting go of the guilt you might feel because others “had to go through this” with you. People who care about your are more than willing to share the bad times as well as the good. You may have the opportunity to return the same support someday. In the meantime, find a way to say thank you — bake a cake, send flowers, take them to dinner. Celebrate that they were there for you!
- You’ve learned what’s truly important to your life: let your new insights guide you.
- Help restore “balance” to your marriage and family life. If cancer has disrupted the natural rhythms, allow things to settle and then reestablish healthy routines and let the unhealthy ones go.
- If you enjoyed a healthy sex life before cancer, chances are you will enjoy it again. Unfortunately, many survivors find that some aspects of sexuality change after their illness. Some forms of treatment may affect sexual functioning. Other common concerns are stress, fatigue, and low desire, as well as body image issues. Maintaining a healthy sex life depends on many factors, but the most important is good communication with your partner, who may also have fears and concerns.
- Join a cancer survivors support group or wellness center. Studies show that this type of support network can increase survival after cancer.
- Realize that you will continue to have fears and sadness from time to time, and may even go through a periods of grief or mourning for your past life as a “healthy” person. This is normal, but prolonged sadness needs attention. About one in four people with cancer develop clinical depression. Talk with your doctor if your mood remains low.
- Serve as a resource and inspiration for others newly diagnosed with cancer. You’ve been there and made it!
- Celebrate the joy of life every day, in some way or another.
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