Coping with the emotional effects of cancer

Why do I feel so overwhelmed?

Grief is a normal response to the loss you may feel when you have cancer and there are a lot of overwhelming emotions that you may experience. The normal balance between your mind, body, emotions and spirit can become a significant challenge.

The emotional challenges can relate to the shock of a cancer diagnosis and fears about the future. More specific emotional concerns can range from apprehension about body image after treatment to periods of anxiety or depression, sadness, shock, horror, disbelief, frustration, distress, unhappiness, upset, worry, shame, fear.

Every person’s situation and needs are different which will make the challenges and the journey an individual one for you. It is important to remember life before your cancer diagnosis… there were probably days when you didn’t feel so good or positive and this was normal. The same applies to living with cancer.

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What sort of support can help me to cope with my emotions?

It is important for you to talk about your feelings and what you are experiencing. If you cannot talk to someone close to you or would like to talk to someone other than close relatives or friends, you might consider talking to a counsellor or engaging with a support group.

Cancer affects family and friends, as well as the person with cancer, whom all can experience grief in different ways throughout the cancer journey. It is important for those caring to talk about their feelings as well. See Caring for someone with cancer.

Cancer support groups vary in their purpose, scope, activities and membership. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for further information about support groups.

Speaking to someone who has had a similar experience to you may be helpful. Cancer Connect is a peer support program that aims to link you with a trained volunteer who has experienced a similar cancer or has cared for someone with cancer.

There are many online forums and cancer chat rooms however the Cancer Council WA recommends that you choose those run by reputable cancer organisations. Cancer Council Online Community  is an online community coordinated by the Cancer Council NSW that provides community information, forums and support for people who are affected by cancer Australia wide. You may find others who share a similar cancer journey to yours.

Go to Search cancer on the web for multiple cancer related websites.

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What support services are available through Cancer Council WA?

The Cancer Council WA understands cancer may have a significant impact on your life as well as the life of your family. We have developed a range of support services to assist you. Our services are all funded by community donations and aim to respond to what clients in Western Australia have told us is helpful. There is a range of professional and peer support services available. To find out what might best suit your needs you might like to speak to one of the cancer nurses on 13 11 20.

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What information is available about coping with a cancer diagnosis?

Helpful booklets include:

  • Emotions and cancer booklet (available from our Publications page). This booklet provides practical tips about how to talk to others about your diagnosis,  your treatment and how you're feeling. You'll find some suggestions for working together to adjust to these challenges. A 52 page booklet designed as a guide for people with cancer, their families and friends. You can also contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 to request a copy.

Helpful CD’s & DVD’s:

The Cancer Council WA has developed some CD’s that talk about strategies for dealing with emotional issues for those whose life has been affected by cancer:

  • Life After Cancer Treatment
  • Eating Well and Keeping Active CD
  • Meditation and Relaxation CD
  • Life Now Exercise and Nutrition DVD - staying well during and after cancer
  • Cancer and Sexuality

The Life Now CD’s can be downloaded or contact Cancer Council 13 11 20 for further information.

Cancer Council Victoria have produced two DVD’s that are very helpful to view:

  • A helping hand - a valuable resource for patients, families and caregivers that is particularly relevant to those recently diagnosed with cancer
  • Just take it day to day - a guide to surviving life after cancer is particularly relevant at the end of treatment

Copies of these DVD’s are available in the Cancer Council WA patient library, please contact the Helpline to find out how to borrow a copy.

Helpful websites

There are a number of Australian and international websites that may provide you with further information about understanding your emotions with a cancer diagnosis. For example, topics on the National Cancer Institute website include:

  • Cancer Will Change Your Life
  • Your Feelings: Learning You Have Cancer
  • Family Matters
  • Sharing Your Feelings About Cancer
  • Learning About Your Cancer and Feeling More in Control
  • People Helping People
  • Dealing with a New Self-Image
  • Living Each Day

Go to Search Cancer on the web to search multiple Australian and International cancer related sites.

What upcoming events and support groups are in my region?

See the Calendar for events or support groups page on our website.

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