It is the diagnosis that no one wants to hear. Despite years of research, the word "cancer" continues to strike fear into the hearts of men, women, and children. While the detection of cancer is no longer a death sentence, there is always the possibility that cancer will accelerate the end of one's life. With a diagnosis of cancer, one comes face-to-face with one's own mortality.
There are a number of stressful aspects to a cancer diagnosis. Primary among these is the possibility that the cancer will be fatal. As a result, cancer can cause tremendous stress to one's interpersonal relationships. Your family and friends may be on edge, worrying that you might die. You may also be short-tempered because you're not certain how many more days you might have to live. You may be frustrated and anxious and may find it difficult to sleep.
Cancer can also lead to a great deal of financial stress. There are bills for doctors, for treatments, for medication, for surgery. At times, the costs can seem staggering. While your health insurance might cover part of the expense, you yourself might have to shoulder the rest of the cost. If you were barely getting by before your diagnosis, you might find it especially difficult dealing with the financial aspect of cancer.
The process of chemotherapy itself can be highly stressful. To begin with, you will not feel as energetic as you usually are, leaving you with the stress of wondering how you will get everything done. Also, you may feel nauseated, making it difficult for you to complete your work at the office or your work at home. Finally, losing your hair to chemotherapy can be quite a stressful experience. You have to decide how to handle your baldness—whether you will invest in a wig, a scarf, or just "go natural." The baldness is particularly stressful for women, who tend to base a great deal of their self-image on how they look.
Realizing that cancer will put you under a great deal of stress is half the battle. Then, you must learn to deal effectively with your stress. For some cancer patients, this means engaging in relaxation exercises. For instance, you might envision that your white blood cells are eating up cancer cells. You might picture the cancer leaving your body, and your body being left healthy as a result. Or you might picture your cancer washing away to the sea. Such mind relaxation techniques can leave you with a more upbeat, enthusiastic attitude and can be highly beneficial in your recovery.
Another stress-reliever is spending some time reading inspirational works. Whether you draw your inspiration from Ronald Reagan or Mother Teresa, reading about how famous people overcame difficulties can help you as you battle your own demons. Such works can be greatly uplifting, giving you the courage and strength necessary to battle cancer heroically.
You might also be able to reduce cancer-related stress by changing your diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve both your physical health and your mental outlook. In this way, you will be better able to handle the stresses of cancer treatment.
Yet another effective stress-reducing technique is to join a support group of cancer survivors. This can be tremendously beneficial to your overall well-being. You'll gain strength from listening to the experiences of other men and women who are facing the same challenges you are. And the fellowship that results from group meetings can aid you in your recovery.
There is no easy way to deal with the stress of cancer. It is a debilitating disease which can sap your physical strength and deplete your emotional reserves. It can leave you feeling battle-scarred and may, at times, lead to a feeling of hopelessness. The good news is that recovery rates are better than ever before—especially when the cancer is caught early. There is a good chance that you will be able to survive cancer, and your recovery could add years to your life. If at any time you find the stress of cancer to be overwhelming, make sure that you mention it to your doctor. He or she might be able to assist you with additional coping strategies that can help you deal with this devastating illness
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