Despite the tremendous advancements in the medical sciences, even today the word ‘cancer’ is associated with extreme distress, discomfort and anguish, for the patients, their families as well as caregivers. It is not uncommon for individuals getting medical investigations to get anxious or shy away from cancer diagnostics and screenings.
Multi-fold Levels of Impact
Such fears surrounding cancer are not necessarily unfounded, as it does bring with it a multitude of challenges including financial, emotional, physical as well as psycho-social stressors, all of which tend to have potentially adverse impacts on not just the patient but their families, caregivers, as well as significant others. In itself, uncertainty becomes one of the most significant limitations in coping with cancer, leading to fears, worries and apprehensions in both the patients as well as their caregivers. From the very start, even seeking an investigation for cancer instils fears and apprehensions of a positive result, leading to varied reactions questioning ‘why me?!’ And the questions unfortunately cannot be answered by anyone.
Therefore, it is important for us, both as a patient or a caregiver, to remember not to search for the answers to these questions, but instead to be at least willing to acknowledge our own feelings, so as to be able to transform the negative energy of anger and hurt into more positive forms of acceptance and healing. Ultimately, we need to reinforce the fact that our mind is a powerful determinant of our health. Dealing with bereavement is not necessarily our preferred choice, but it is an inherent part of life, and it is definitely our choice to decide how we wish to cope with it.
Breaking the news of a diagnosis of cancer in itself marks a major milestone in the journey. The most challenging part of this disease is the long and arduous treatment, which can go on from months to years. This is when a positive attitude can go a long way in helping the cancer patient and family to cope with the disease. A positive attitude does not mean negating the fears, frustrations or distress that cancer may bring, but rather developing and utilizing effective coping mechanisms to cope with the psychological distress. Maintaining an open communication channel with friends and family, allowing oneself the space to feel emotions – both good and bad, keeping in touch with hobbies and trying and stick to a daily routine as much as possible and as far as health and treatment allow. These are strategies that go a long way in maintaining a positive attitude and keeping one psychologically healthy, which can go a long way in providing the strength and support to fight the disease.
Psycho-oncology – The Path to a Sensitized Approach
Psychological support can play a huge positive role for patients suffering from cancer. Psycho-oncology is a growing field with increasing relevance as well. Supportive counseling for both the patient as well as the family members can help in the various transitions associated with the disease. There is no one generic way in which psychological help is provided to cancer patients who lose hope, however psychological counseling and psychotherapy is essential for cancer patients with a high risk of anxiety and depression.