Many people are bewildered when they hear that they have cancer, and wonder why this has happened, or feel sad, angry or afraid. It is very common for people to experience huge swings in emotions ranging from cheerful optimism to the darkest thoughts. These swings in feelings can be made more dramatic by the impact of the cancer treatments. The important thing is to remember that these feelings are normal and that many others feel this way too.
It is up to you how and when to talk to your friends and family about your illness, but it is a good idea to talk to them. It can help you understand your situation more clearly and can help you to crystallize your thoughts and preferences for the days ahead. Their questions and input can help too.
Sometimes you may not want to talk about how you feel or about how others are feeling. It can help to think about how you would deal with days like this, and prepare a phrase to use. You could say that you are usually prepared to talk about your situation, but today you are not feeling up to it and you hope they understand.
Knowing when you may need help.
It is natural and understandable to have all sorts of powerful emotional reactions to cancer, and these can change over time. Being diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment is an incredibly stressful experience and hard to cope with. Sometimes people can become depressed and need treatment to help them. Cancer treatment itself can cause some symptoms of depression. If you are worried that you could be affected by depression, here are some signs to be aware of.
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or “empty” almost every day for most of the day
- Losing interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable
- A change in eating habits such as eating too much or too little, or weight loss or gain
- Changes in sleep patterns such as unable to sleep, waking too early, or sleeping too much
- Noticing that you are restless or slowed down almost every day
- Having decreased energy or fatigue (severe tiredness) almost every day
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Problems with concentration, remembering, or making decisions
- Experiencing thoughts of death or suicide, or making attempts at suicide
- Wide mood swings from depression to periods of agitation and high energy
If you are experiencing the first two symptoms along with three or more of the others you may have depression. If these symptoms persist for two weeks or longer or are severe enough to affect your usual routines and activities then you need to see your GP or clinical nurse specialist.
Last review April 2016
Date of next review April 2018