Active Ways to Manage & Cope With Stress from Cancer

Posted on March 19, 2022

It’s tempting to want to avoid talking about addressing problems. Yet not talking about a problem will not make it go away. In general, it’s much better to actively address the problem. Here’s the difference:

Active Ways to Cope

  • Take action to get rid of the problem
  • Plan how to deal with the problem
  • Look for advice and information to deal with the problem
  • Look for sympathy and emotional support
  • Accept that the problem exists and decide what you can and cannot control
  • Try to get a new perspective by making the best of the situation
  • Become aware of your feelings about the problem and express them to others

Using Avoidance to Cope

  • Deny that the problem exists
  • Withdraw from social experience
  • Avoid any thoughts about the problem
  • Wishful thinking
  • Use drugs or alcohol to forget the problem
  • Blame and criticize yourself for the problem
  • Keep extra busy and ignore the problem

When people don’t talk about their feelings, they may act on those feeling in ways they regret later, with hostile, impulsive or irresponsible behaviors. However, it is important not to confuse restraining behavior with suppressing your feelings. Awareness of your own feelings is important for better mental health.

For example: If you fear that your partner will be turned off by your breast reconstruction or your colostomy bag, you may avoid getting into a sexual situation, or you may even pick a fight to make sure your partner will not be interested in sex. It would be much better if you could find a quiet time and ask to have a talk for a few minutes. Tell your partner your worry and let your partner respond. Talk about how to make sex feel safe and comfortable for both of you.

To find healthy ways to deal with the normal stressful feelings that accompany treatment, you must:

  • Learn about the common feelings that many cancer survivors experience after treatment
  • Recognize when you need more support with emotional issues
  • Know where to get support and how to move forward

An Important First Step When You Have a Cancer Diagnosis

Here at the Cancer Support Community you can find that you are not alone, regain a sense of control, and learn there is always hope.

The next few weeks will be a busy time, as you face decisions about your treatment and care. Navigating the health care system – the tests, doctor’s appointments, figuring out insurance and more – can feel overwhelming. But, it is ok to ask for help.

One of the first things to do is think about who in your life is a helping presence. It might be your spouse or partner, friends, faith community, support group or co-workers. Make a list of specific ways they can help.

If you are unsure of what to ask people to do, below are some questions to consider:

  • Who would I like to talk with about treatment decisions? Or join me at appointments?
  • Who can help me with practical support, such as figuring out work leave, meals, family care, driving or cost of care questions?
  • Who can help serve as a point person to keep other people updated?
  • Are there other people in my life that will also need help? Who can help them?

People on your health care team, particularly a nurse or social worker, can help you find resources for social, emotional and practical support.

Choosing Your Health Care Team for Cancer Treatment

An important decision you will make about your cancer treatment is choosing a doctor, a team and a cancer center that has the expertise to treat your cancer.

As you learn about your cancer diagnosis and treatment options, ask your doctor how soon you need to make a treatment decision. You may seek a second or even third opinion. Being able to talk openly and feel comfortable with your doctor, nurse, social worker, and other office or health care team staff is important. Here are some questions to consider asking as you choose your team:

About your cancer diagnosis:

  • What type of cancer do I have?
  • What stage is my cancer? What does that mean?
  • What symptoms of cancer might I experience?
  • What other types of tests will I need?
  • Where can I get a second opinion?

About your cancer treatment:

  • How much experience do you have in treating my specific type of cancer? Are you board certified as an oncologist or are you certified in another specialty?
  • Are you associated with a major medical center, medical school or comprehensive cancer center?
  • What are the treatment goals (is it to cure the cancer, control the cancer, or relieve symptoms)?
  • Which treatment do you recommend, and why?
  • Are there treatment options are available for me?
  • What are the risks and benefits of each treatment option?
  • What side effects might I experience, and how can they be managed or prevented?
  • What treatments and other services are covered by my insurance? What options are there to help cover costs?
  • Where can I get a second opinion?
  • Are there any clinical trial here or somewhere else that might be appropriate for me?
  • What emotional and practical support services are available to me and my loved ones?

The ripples of a cancer diagnosis extend to spouses, partners, siblings, children and friends

Many of these family members will find they now need to take on the role of caregiver—something they have never done before.

Your main job will be to support and encourage your loved one as they learn about their cancer and make decisions about and then start their cancer treatments. What will this involve? Not all caregivers do all of the same things, but a survey of 66 caregivers who are part of our Cancer Experience Registry®

  • 98% provided emotional support
  • 96% went with their loved one to medical appointments
  • 82% helped with decision-making
  • 79% coordinated medical care
  • 80% provided transportation
  • 74% helped manage finances

Becoming a caregiver may seem scary or overwhelming. Know that you are not alone: The Caregiver Action Network estimates that during any given year more than 65 million people in the U.S. spend about 20 hours each week caring for an ill, disabled or aged family member or friend.

There is a growing realization that caregivers need support, and there are programs and services that can help you as you care for your loved one. In fact, many caregivers decide to meet regularly with a social worker or join a family or caregiver support group to make sure they will have the time to talk about their own fears or worries. Support groups are also a good place to get information and advice about caregiving and cancer.

Remember: Sometimes the best thing you can do for your loved one is to just sit quietly together — be present, in the moment, sharing time.

He first critical step to managing your cancer treatment is making the decision to empower yourself.

At Cancer Support Community, “empower yourself” is a phrase we use to describe the ongoing process of making a personal effort to become educated about your cancer diagnosis, your cancer treatment, your health care team, and ways to improve your overall wellbeing. To become “empowered” means that you choose to adopt a series of actions, behaviors, and attitudes that can improve the quality of your life. It’s not about making monumental changes but rather small incremental steps such as asking questions or self-educating to gain a sense of confidence and control as you move forward with your cancer treatment.

Cancer is treated in a multidisciplinary way, meaning several different types of health care professionals will be managing your care. The selection of your oncologist and is one of the most important decisions you need to make and manage throughout your treatment for cancer. An effective treatment for cancer requires a considerable effort by both you (the patient), and your physician. Forming a strong relationship with your cancer care team will be crucial to managing your cancer journey.

Your active participation in the choices you make with your health care team can make a big difference in your cancer experience and quality of life. One way you can do this is to prepare a list of questions for each appointment. Also, be sure to ask for clarification of any terms you do not understand. If you do not feel like you will be able to develop a good relationship with your doctor, consider finding another one. And remember: It is always ok to get a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment plan from another doctor.

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