One of the most important things to remember is that your feelings and experiences are normal and valid. Just as cancer affects your physical health, it can bring up a wide range of feelings you’re not used to dealing with. It can also make existing feelings seem more intense. They may change daily, hourly, or even minute to minute. This is true whether you’re currently in treatment, done with treatment, or a friend or family member. These feelings are all normal.
When you first learn that you have cancer, you may feel as if your life is out of control. This could be because:
- You wonder if you’re going to live.
- Your normal routine is disrupted by doctor visits and treatments.
- People use medical terms that you don’t understand.
- You feel like you can’t do the things you enjoy.
- You feel helpless and lonely.
Even if you feel out of control, there are ways you can take charge. Try to learn as much as you can about your cancer. Ask your doctor questions and don’t be afraid to say when you don’t understand. Also, many people feel better if they stay busy. You can take part in activities such as music, crafts, reading, or learning something new.
When you were first diagnosed, you may have had trouble believing or accepting the fact that you have cancer. This is called denial. It can be helpful because it can give you time to adjust to your diagnosis. It can also give you time to feel hopeful and better about the future.
Sometimes, denial is a serious problem. If it lasts too long, it can keep you from getting the treatment you need.
The good news is that most people work through denial. Usually by the time treatment begins, most people accept the fact that they have cancer and move forward. This is true for those with cancer as well as the people they love and care about.
People with cancer often feel angry. It’s normal to ask, “Why me?” and be angry at the cancer. You may also feel anger or resentment towards your health care providers, your healthy friends and your loved ones. And if you’re religious, you may even feel angry with God.
Anger often comes from feelings that are hard to show, such as fear, panic, frustration, anxiety, or helplessness. If you feel angry, you don’t have to pretend that everything is okay. Anger can be helpful in that it may motivate you to take action. Talk with your family and friends about your anger. Or, ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor.
Sadness and Depression
Many people with cancer feel sad. They feel a sense of loss of their health, and the life they had before they learned they had the disease. Even when you’re done with treatment, you may still feel sad. This is a normal response to any serious illness. It may take time to work through and accept all the changes that are taking place.
When you’re sad, you may have very little energy, feel tired, or not want to eat. For some, these feelings go away or lessen over time. But for others, these emotions can become stronger. The painful feelings don’t get any better, and they get in the way of daily life. This may be a medical condition called depression. For some, cancer treatment may have added to this problem by changing the way the brain works.
Getting Help for Depression
Depression can be treated. Below are common signs of depression. If you have any of the following signs for more than two weeks, talk to your doctor about treatment. Be aware that some of these symptoms could be due to physical problems, so it’s important to talk about them with your doctor.
Emotional signs include:
- Feelings of sadness that don’t go away.
- Feeling emotionally numb.
- Feeling nervous or shaky.
- Having a sense of guilt or feeling unworthy.
- Feeling helpless or hopeless, as if life has no meaning.
- Feeling short-tempered, moody.
- Having a hard time concentrating, feeling scatterbrained.
- Crying for long periods of time or many times each day.
- Focusing on worries and problems.
- No interest in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy.
- Finding it hard to enjoy everyday things, such as food or being with family and friends.
- Thoughts about hurting or killing yourself.
Information taken from Colorectal Cancer Alliance.