The struggle against cancer takes a huge emotional toll on patients and their families. Fears, confusion, exhaustion, financial stresses, guilt, and anxiety can hit any and all members of the family – and the hit can be a hard one. Know that there is help from people who understand what you’re going through.
Sometimes it helps to talk with someone who has been through the same experience. Other cancer patients or caregivers can share what they have learned or just offer support and encouragement. Peer support is available online, over the phone, and in community groups.
However, there are times when you need help from a professional. Anxiety and depression that overwhelm you or leave you feeling hopeless and unable to continue with treatment or daily life need support from a therapist with training and experience in cancer. If your distress is leaving you unable to eat or sleep or concentrate, talk to your doctor. You can ask for a referral to a psychologist, clinical social worker, or mental health professional.
The American Cancer Society has created quizzes for emotional self-assessment for cancer patients, their families and their caregivers. These are a good way to touch base with how things are affecting you – and your family — and they provide an excellent impetus for conversations with your family, caregivers or doctors.
The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty by Dr. Jimmie Holland at Memorial Sloan Kettering provides both good information about psycho-oncology and warm support for readers. Dr. Holland pioneer the study of psychological concerns of cancer patients and their families.