By Dr. Andrew Odhiambo – Consultant Physician & Medical Oncologist
There is an adage that says: “No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.” One of the most heartbreaking moments for any oncologist or physician is when they deliver news of positive confirmation for a new cancer diagnosis. The news can be shattering and for some time, one may lose the will to live. It is usually a very emotional experience but as doctors, we must always remain strong to support you through your treatment and possible recovery.
Undeniably, the stress that comes with a new cancer diagnosis can be quite overwhelming. Perhaps your immediate thoughts will be your family members and dear friends. However, there is a fair chance for you to get optimal cancer care and live normally afterwards. The secret, as I have stated before, is to go for early and regular cancer screening where applicable. This allows for early detection and treatment. This most important for breast, cervix, colon, and prostate cancer. It is nevertheless important to note that acute stress does not cause cancer. If the stress gets chronic, your immune system may be immobilized resulting in other health challenges over and above unfulfilled life.
April is the month of stress awareness where we are all encouraged to monitor our emotional and mental wellness including those of our family members and friends. Indeed, stress has become one of the contributing factors to mortality and a big public health issue. According to World Health Organization, mental health disorders make up 10% of the global burden of disease. This is just the tip of the iceberg because the trove of statistics around stress and depression paints even a grimmer picture.
While the situation might seem dire, stress caused by a cancer diagnosis can be managed and you will be able to cope and live a relatively meaningful and happy life. Even though you cannot eradicate stress from your life, you can take practical steps to reduce the number of stressors in your life even as you begin cancer treatment and counselling. Here are some five tips for dealing with stress after being diagnosed with cancer. They include:
1. Exercise regularly: Having an active lifestyle can help you stay energized and motivated to engage in your life's purpose or mission. Depending on your stage of cancer, your oncologist/physician will be able to advise on an appropriate exercise routine. This could be as simple as taking a thirty to one hour stroll a couple of times a week around the neighbourhood.
2. Spend time outside: You will be surprised by what the fresh air, sunlight and tranquillity of nature can do for your mood. Stress, by its very nature, leads us to isolate ourselves from family and friends. With the bad news, you may feel defeated and would wish to stay by yourself in the house waiting for death. On the contrary, you need to spend time outside and engage in normal chit chat. It will give you the drive to live through your cancer treatment and recovery.
3. Join a support group: When you get a cancer diagnosis; it may seem like you are alone in the world. However, in reality, there are other people who also in your exact situation and they could draw inspiration from your story to live through the ordeal. You should consider joining a cancer support group where you will meet other cancer warriors to discuss and share your experiences. If you do not know where to start, you can always request your oncologist to recommend a cancer support group within your area or a treatement buddy to walk with you.
4. Learn a new hobby: You can also learn and develop a new hobby that will keep you preoccupied while enjoying yourself. This could be a wide range of activities including board games like Scrabble, playing musical instruments, dancing, painting, singing or simply reading books on subjects that you love.
5. Schedule social activities: Having cancer should not make you sever ties with people instead, you should reach out and socialize with family or friends. These interactions may adjust your perspective towards life and see how many things that we take for granted are valuable. Be sure to make time to meeting and spending time with people you treasure. It will make you feel better. Remember to pamper yourself and make yourself feel good always.
There is no doubt that a cancer diagnosis would be without stress and anxiety. It may seem like your world has come to an end but that is not true. All is you need is for you to manage your stress and anxiety so that you can leave a relatively normal life as you used to before the diagnosis. Remember you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live – Late ESPN Anchor Stuart Scott 2014 Jimmy V Award
For us at Prime Cancercare Clinic, we believe and choose hope. If in any case, a few bad chapters don't mean your story is over. To this end, we provide holistic cancer treatment that includes counselling and support. Our Executive Care Coordinator will always be with you throughout your journey. Call us today for treatment consultation on 0724 831010 or click here to book an appointment.