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Here’s a guest blog by Eric Stevenson, a health and safety advocate who resides in the Southeastern US.

Mentally processing and coping with chronic illnesses, like cancer can be more complicated than some may assume. The emotional highs and lows, coupled with the physical trauma of enduring treatment side effects and chronic and sever pain, make for mentally distant, depressed, anxious, and stressed individuals.  The Different stages of coping with cancer, from pre-diagnostic symptoms to diagnosis, treatment, and remission, all bring about varying concerns that ought to be understood and managed in equally varying ways. However, despite the dynamic nature of the affliction, it is important for there to be one constant: maintaining a positive attitude.

Symptoms
Even before cancer is diagnosed, those suffering from it must cope with the fear and anxiety of the unknown. If the patients are experiencing symptoms that are unexplained, they may show serious concern. This is normal and can be combated simply by remaining positive and requesting a cancer screening. The results of this screening will determine whether further steps must be taken. By staying positive, stress levels are reduced and one’s general quality of life is improved.

Diagnosis
Diagnosis is a mentally difficult process. This stage presents a critical moment in the patient’s life. It is imperative to maintain a positive attitude throughout this process. The initial diagnosis presents the patient with a wave of new and shocking information.   Starting with denial, the patient experiences a wide range of emotional distress.  Coping with the emotional anxiety, depression, and fear often means that newly diagnosed patients miss important medical information during appointments with their doctor’s.  New patients should take time to digest the news before attempting to understand exactly what treatment options are recommended.  Allowing time for mental recuperation, and possibly scheduling an additional appointment, means that the patient has time to sort through their emotions, thus allowing them clarity of mind later, during the discussion of treatment options. Perhaps the most effective strategy for staying positive and coping with fearful emotions is through communication with loved ones. Sharing emotions and venting pent up thoughts can provide a cathartic release that is sometimes needed for patient’s to begin their recovery.

Treatment
Cancer treatment is also a mentally taxing experience.   The level of aggression of treatment may depend on the patient’s type and stage of cancer. For example, mesothelioma patients often endure extremely aggressive treatment.  Because of the latency of mesothelioma symptoms, patients’ cancer tends to have already metastasized. Mesothelioma life expectancy rates are low, and patients diagnosed with terminal cancer naturally experience a more drastic range of mental and emotional distress symptoms. Also, besides coping with physicality and side effects of treatment, organizing other necessities, like transportation and treatment dates, can allow patients mental clarity and relief. It may also be beneficial for patients and families of patients to seek professional guidance, either from therapists, support groups, or a combination of the two.

Remission
Though it may seem as though cancer survivors should be relieved and elated when they’re declared cancer-free, news of remission can result in devastating mental and emotional effects.  Those who no longer have to battle cancer often live in fear and anxiety, dreading the return of the malignant cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, post-treatment survivors should be honest about the complexity of their emotions, coming to terms with the fact that there is nothing wrong about feeling fearful rather than happy.  Expressing these feelings to supporters and family members can also aid in avoiding confusing family situations and miscommunications.

Thank you Eric 🙂

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