Thursday, January 21, 2010

What control?

As the next week winds down towards Chemo #5, I was thinking about how little control I have over this. Time is fleeting and I am not in charge. I can only control how I react to it all. It is believed that the freak-out you may experience from a cancer diagnosis probably comes from fears often associated with cancer—and there are many things a rational person could be afraid of following such a diagnosis. Death tops the list for most, but another fear may be that even if treatment works, the cancer will come back. Fear of an unknown future may persist, including what will happen to the people one loves and cares about. Also on the list is fear of alienation—not being treated as normal by other people. Fear associated with cancer is at least partly caused by the fact that we don’t have all the answers as to why some people get cancer, says Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Survivorship. “Cancer is often equated with the other big C: loss of control,” she explains. “It causes anxiety, because if you don’t know what caused you to have cancer, you don’t know what to do to keep it from coming back.”
Certain situations can also increase fear and anxiety. Disease progression or a change in treatment regimen may increase fear of death or fear of the future. Anxiety about recurrence may increase after treatment, as the time approaches for a checkup. Aches, pains or other problems can also trigger fear of recurrence. Taking good care of your body by eating a healthful diet and exercising when you are able is one way to cope. Many people find that knowledge about cancer helps to alleviate the fear. Others deal with cancer in practical ways, such as taking care of wills and other legal issues, and emotional ways, such as talking with loved ones about unresolved problems. Some people use humor to help manage their emotions.
Cancer survivors report a significantly greater unmet need for mental
health services than do people who have never had cancer. Symptoms of fear that may indicate a need for mental health care include anger and irritability, difficulty with concentration and problem solving and physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, dry mouth, trembling, shaking or restlessness. Some people find that medication is appropriate in helping them get through the most stressful period. Every person dealing with cancer is unique, and their beliefs, experiences and factors, such as economic and marital status, can have a profound impact on their experience with cancer. So control is out the window and time flies when you're having cancer!

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