Coping with Cancer

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We know that coping with Cancer is challenging. Here are a few ways to manage the day-to-day impact.

Almost everyone has been affected by Cancer in some way. If you are undergoing treatment for Cancer, or you’re supporting a loved one as they experience the day-to-day reality of coping with illness, it’s tough. Some days feel impossibly hard. Your mental health, emotional wellbeing and physical strength are challenged in unimaginable ways.

It’s difficult to know what to say to someone who is coping with Cancer. Often, people avoid saying anything because they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing or make things worse. At Vala Health, we believe in having those difficult conversations. Our team of trained GPs and mental health professionals speak to people from all walks of life every day who are struggling with the mental, emotional and physical effects of coping with Cancer.

Many people talk about ‘winning’ the fight against Cancer but we know that it’s not that simple. When you’re coping with Cancer, every day is a battle. Remember that you are winning by choosing to be kind to yourself, looking after your mental health and focusing on the bits you can control, rather than worrying about those you can’t.

Here we’ll share some advice and tips for looking after yourself and maintaining positive despite the difficult days.

1 It’s ok not to be ok

When you’re coping with Cancer or supporting a loved one through illness, some days are darker than others. Even the most optimistic minds will go through periods of time when they struggle to see the bright side.

Be kind to yourself, feel your feelings and don’t give yourself a hard time about having bad days. Those dark days are the ones where it can be useful to reach out to family or friends and let them know that you’re not feeling ok. It can help to explain that you’re not sure what you need, in fact you may not need anything, you simply need to reach out, to be seen or heard, and to have your pain or struggle acknowledged.

Remember that the dark days will pass and you will smile and laugh again, even if that’s impossible to imagine right now. But give yourself time - you’re dealing with a lot right now.

2 The pink elephant in the room

In Psychology there is a concept known as “ironic process theory”. In simple terms it refers to the process of trying not to think about something only to find that it’s all you can think about.

For example, if someone says to you, “don’t think about a pink elephant!” What’s the first thing that comes to mind? The same principle applies to coping with Cancer. If you find that the thought of your or a loved one’s illness is all you can think of, try some simple distraction techniques.

If you’re feeling physically able, try a gentle walk, preferably in a quiet, green space, to calm your mind and distract your thoughts. It can help to read a book, watch something funny on TV or listen to music. Call a friend, do some mindful colouring in or bake something healthy and delicious to lift your spirits. The key is to keep your mind active so you have less time to think negative thoughts.

Whilst it’s not ideal to quell every thought and distract yourself any time you start to think about illness - because processing your thoughts and feelings is important - too much thinking can become overwhelming. Find some positive distractions as your ‘go to’ actions when your mind becomes too racked with negative or troublesome thoughts. This way, you’ll easily be able to dip into them whenever you need to.

3 It’s time to master meditation

If you’ve always dismissed the idea of meditation because it’s a little too ‘out there’ for you, it might be time to revisit the idea.

Meditation and mindfulness have been proven to cut the recurrence of depression by 50% and can reduce negative thoughts and behaviours. Meditation is very good for your physical wellbeing because it calms the central nervous system and effectively gives your body a ‘rest’ while you’re awake.

As above, mindfulness exercises can also be a great distraction from intrusive thoughts and anxiety.

4 Reach out

If you’re coping with Cancer, you might worry about burdening others with your worries and fears. Perhaps you’re scared to reach out or you don’t even know what to say. But talking will help - your friends and family may not know what to say or might struggle to know how to support you, but they will appreciate the opportunity to try.

If you don’t feel ready or able to speak to those close to you, there are many other places to seek support.

Online forums: these social environments are a safe space for people to share their questions, fears and experiences of coping with Cancer. It can be comforting to know that others are having a similar experience and it can be uplifting to hear stories of recovery and remission - a message of hope.

Cancer charities: Cancer Research and Macmillan Cancer Support provide wonderful resources to those who are suffering with Cancer and for their families and friends. You can speak to someone over the phone if you have questions or need reassurance and support. Or you can watch videos from sufferers and survivors of various types of Cancer.

Vala health: Our trained team of medical experts and GPs can answer your questions, provide referrals and give you peace of mind whenever you need it. You can book a video consultation or chat to someone over the phone if you find a lump, have any concerning symptoms or need a second opinion or diagnosis.

Coping with Cancer can feel like an emotional rollercoaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows. It’s so important that you prioritise your mental health and emotional wellbeing as well as your physical health. Whilst it’s normal to feel scared, uncertain, even angry at times, you are not alone and it’s important to take each day as it comes.

If you’re worried about your mental health, we’d encourage you to book a video consultation with one of our trained Psychotherapists. Or you can get information and support across a number of health concerns on our website.

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