Surviving Cancer: A Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellness Balancing Act
As a cancer survivor, I am among those that can recall with clarity the moment they heard the words, “you have cancer”. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be one of the most stressful and difficult times for an individual. Everyone copes with their cancer diagnosis differently and it is a completely individualized process.
This time can be very overwhelming as you shift into a new space of trying to make sense of what this means for you and can bring increased stress, worry, fear and anxiety.
The good news is that for many people, they can and do move into the phase of remission. What isn’t talked about as often is how to take care of yourself and your mental health when you shift from the role of cancer patient to cancer survivor.
Here are some tips that I feel can help you though this time.
- It’s okay if you need some time and space to process things. Do things that you enjoy and that bring you peace, calmness and grounding to prioritize wellness for your physical AND mental health Give yourself permission to rest.
- There is no set time frame for how long it takes to process your diagnosis and survivorship. You will find a lot of “firsts” in this space in your life combined with some grief and relief, among a variety of other parallel feelings. It’s okay that all of those feelings live in one space.
- Survivor’s guilt can be a part of surviving cancer. You may think about others with cancer who had a different journey and feel guilty or wonder why you survived. This can be a normal part of surviving this diagnosis when others have not. We will take a minute here to remember those people and send our care and sympathy to individuals and families who have lost loved ones.
- Health anxiety may be something you experience. You may feel worried about your health and more attuned to your physical health baseline and subtle changes related to health. This is normal and it makes sense for what you have experienced. Give yourself some kindness as you take this all in.
- It’s just as important to attune to your mental wellness in this time too. There are tons of resources available for you. Books are a good place to start. One of the books that helped me feel seen and understood is “The Human Side of Cancer” by Jimmie Holland and Sheldon Lewis.
- Create a support system around you. Friends, family, counsellors and healthcare providers can be a key part of your overall wellness balancing act.
- Find a support group with other cancer survivors in your community. It is really important to have a space to talk about your experiences with others who understand what you have been through. The cancer journey can be lonely but there are groups out there to help with similar experiences.
- Seek some counselling or support with mental wellness from a professional. Having a space to talk openly, process and connect is a huge part of the holistic healing process in the cancer journey.
- Think about marking your remission date with a special gesture that nurtures your cancer survivor journey. This can be big or small. It’s up to you.
This year marks my fourth year in remission as a cancer survivor. I understand the journey that a cancer diagnosis can make in your life but I have also experienced strength present itself in ways I didn’t know I was capable of.
In conclusion, just know that this strength is inside you too. If you need someone to talk or help you pull that strength out, we are here waiting for you at Wildflowers Therapy.
Written by Nancy Masuda BSW RSW, Clinical Counsellor
Holland, J. C., & Lewis, S. (2001). The human side of cancer: Living with hope, coping with uncertainty. HarperCollins Publishers.