Let's be honest right at the start and admit that no one has any brilliant new ideas about managing stress. Having made that disclaimer, it is still reasonable to return to the subject periodically and remind ourselves that we do have strategies that can help.
Also, before going any further (and putting it here in case you don't read any further): I am leaving tomorrow for a week in Mexico with almost all of my family (a mere 13 instead of the full 17) and am planning to write this blog each day next week. It is possible, however, that the internet won't cooperate. If that happens, no worries.
Stress comes and goes, is more or less, often is predictable, but sometimes surprises us with its intensity. We all have it in our lives, cancer or not. There is a lot written about the stresses of modern life with the pressures of work and home and raising accomplished, perfect children and staying healthy and paying the bills and horrible commutes.....but I would bet that our distant ancestors felt plenty of stress with whatever were the circumstances of their daily lives. It just seems to be a part of the human condition.
For sure, a cancer diagnosis and treatment make it worse. We have to add medical appointments and bills and big worries to our already busy lives. We know that the early days are among the hardest; each week when I speak with women who have just been diagnosed, I promise them that it will get a little easier. Once all the information is in and there is a plan, one feels a tiny bit more in control.
My own stress management includes almost daily exercise, lots of sleep, meditation, good food, a little time to read a book every day, and wonderful people whom I love. Lucky, I know. The things that send me to the edge are usually work-related and, specifically, having days when every single hour is scheduled, and then new problems arise. Those just happen, and I remind myself that the day will pass, and I will do the best I can.
This is an article from Cure Today that shares some other ideas:
Cancer Stress: Suggestions From a Breast Cancer Survivor
Of course I want medical research to catch up with and cure cancer. I also want tools on the front end of diagnosis and through the months and years that follow to cope with the anxiety, depression, worry, and post-traumatic stress disorder that can come from the cancer experience. Too many of us (cancer survivors) are too preoccupied and worn down by living with uncertainty and worry with the cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship process.
Do you wish for a balance of being responsible about follow-up doctor visits and tests without being overly preoccupied emotionally and mentally by the disease? Cancer takes enough without letting it take from our emotions and thoughts too.
Cancer can’t have my soul. Enough already.
I think we are starting to get better balance. Research on the emotional aspects of cancer has begun as well as an improved awareness of how stressful just the process itself is, including how life-changing hearing the words “You have cancer” can be.
What should you do about the post-traumatic stress of finding out you have cancer?
Here is my advice. First, tell your doctors what you are experiencing emotionally. Doctors aren’t psychic. If they don’t know, they can’t refer you to resources that will help you. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. That said, let’s also get more tools into doctors’ hands so they can offer their cancer patients help for the mental and emotional aspects of this diagnosis.
When I was diagnosed, I found that my first resource was the Internet, but ultimately I got the most help from, well, real live people.