Cancer & Emotions: A Guide for Patients and Family (Part I)

Cancer & Emotions: A Guide for Patients and Family (Part I)

If you or a loved one has received a cancer diagnosis and are undergoing treatment know that experiencing both physical and emotional effects throughout the process is an expected and very normal part of the journey. Emotional changes are a normal reaction to the many adjustments and changes that patients and families experience after a cancer diagnosis. There are emotional effects that some individuals experience upon receiving the diagnosis and some that arise when undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health conditions associated with the course of the illness, from diagnosis and treatment to remission. And while your oncologist will help you with your physical health during this time, a counselor who is seasoned and experienced in working with cancer patients will help you with your emotional health.


Physical and Emotional

The physical side effects of chemotherapy medication (e.g., nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue) are often accompanied by emotional side effects (e.g., depression and anxiety). Depression and anxiety alone are common side effects of chemotherapy, but one or both can occur as a result of the bodily changes that individuals experience during chemotherapy treatment. The stress associated with receiving and coping with the diagnosis itself can also cause emotional difficulties. It can be difficult to distinguish between the cause of the emotional difficulties, which is why it is important to discuss any mental health symptoms with a physician in order to understand the symptoms, determine whether they are stemming from stress or from the chemotherapy medication and to get a referral for a cancer-specialist counselor.


Chemo Brain

Many cancer patients refer to the term “chemo brain” to describe the difficulty they have concentrating and other cognitive side effects of chemotherapy (e.g., memory lapses, decreased attention). Chemo brain disappears shortly after treatment in some individuals while others experience the effects long after treatment ends. Radiation treatment can also cause chemo brain. Another common side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue or decreased energy. Low energy can sometimes be confused with or appear like the patient is depressed since individuals with radiation-related fatigue experience decreased motivation and interest in doing things they normally enjoy (a typical symptom of depression). Other side effects of radiation therapy (e.g., skin problems, hair loss, eating difficulties) can sometimes cause emotional distress, as coping with these symptoms can interfere with the individual’s daily activities and effect overall well-being.


Over and Under Diagnosing

Over-diagnosing and under-diagnosing depression and anxiety is common among cancer patients due to the overlap of symptoms and side effects. It is important to normalize feelings and emotions and avoid labeling patients as “depressed” or “anxious” during the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery process. At the same time, these emotional difficulties should be appropriately addressed especially it they are excessive or distressing to the patient. Keep in mind that stress wears on the body and during cancer treatment, you want your body’s energy to be focused on fighting the cancer and regaining your health. Communication between the patient, caregivers, treatment team and the patient’s support system is key and will contribute greatly to an improved prognosis and a better quality of life for you and your loved ones.


Thanks for visiting our blog. Stay in touch for the rest of the articles in the Cancer and Emotions series, or even take a look at some of the other great articles we’ve posted already. Journey Well!


Forgiveness; Is This The Real Deal?

Forgiveness; Is This The Real Deal? – Live Better Live Now. Your life will require you to forgive and to be forgiven by others many, many, many times. The sooner you can learn this and also teach it’s practice to those you love – the sooner you and they can embrace a more free and happy life.

Here’s the “skinny” on what is and is not, forgiveness:


What Forgiveness Is NOT:

1. Condoning, dismissing or minimizing what has happened. Pretending it doesn’t matter only drives the negative inward, it doesn’t make it go away.

2. “Forgive and Forget”; this has got to be some of the worst of common wisdom out there. Forgetting is utter nonsense and foolishness. If you do not remember, you cannot learn and make better decisions ahead. Even the great religious texts do not ask us to forget. (ex. The bible specifies forgiveness, it doesn’t support forgetting…these two are very different.)

3. Reconciling. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a spiritual and internal act. It does not require the other person(s) involvement. Reconciliation is between the offending and the offended – this is a human exchange and unlike forgiveness, reconciling require reciprocity. Forgiveness is an action solely of itself. (forgiveness heals the self, reconciling heals the relationship – sometimes the relationship is not a safe or healthy one and it needs to dissolve).


What Real Forgiveness IS:

1. It’s hard to truly believe in or be open to forgiveness for ourselves when we cannot practice it for others.

2. The conscious choice to not only not seek revenge, but to not harbor the desire for it within ourselves.

3. Allowing whatever injustice we feel to be righted by an appropriate higher system and/or our higher power.

4. Allowing ourselves to see humanity, however flawed, of all involved and not just from a perspective as the offended.

5. Relating the story of what happened with consideration for the above (4) and not an account of accusation that continues to spread injury.

6. Asking, praying, meditating or hoping for healing for the offender – to whatever extent you can. This frees you to move forward in life.


(If you are having trouble wrestling with forgiveness, forgetting and reconciling in your own life, getting some professional guidance might be helpful).