It’s normal to have a strong emotional response to a serious diagnosis. The first step in good mental health for oncology patients is to know that strong emotions are part of the grieving process and it’s common for patients, and those close to them to have very strong emotions, and shifts from stage to stage—and back again. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are the five stages of grief. (Taken from The Grief Cycle model first published in On Death & Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969.) The stages are all natural to experience, and will vary in degree from person to person. These strong emotions surface at different times during the cancer experience, and can surface from the patient, and those taking close care of them, too.
Tell your doctor if worry interferes with your life. There are several options: counseling and medication to name the most common. Also, organizations like American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute have phone lines open 24 hours a day to help you in English, or Spanish.
- ACS: 1-800-227-2345
- NCI: 1-800-4-CANCER, or 1-800-422-6237
Some people prefer to talk about their situation. There are support groups, one-to-one counseling, and those close to you with whom you may find support. Others find journaling helpful, and some prefer visiting websites, on-line chat groups, message boards and blogs. Here are some reputable cancer related sites: www.caring4cancer.com; www.breastcancer.org; www.cancer.gov; www.cancer.org. Whatever site you visit, don’t take any information as absolute truth. Situations are individual. What may work for one person, may not work for another. I strongly suggest to get your medical information from your medical team. Surfing random websites will create fear, and some wild, incorrect information. Don’t buy into scary stories. Focus on all the good that can happen from your treatment, not the “Well, I heard. . .” stories. Mental health for oncology patients is curtail for a complete healing. Take a stand on who you’ll allow share your space, your journey, your future.