I've recently been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer that has metastised and am due to meet up with my Oncology team in a couple of days.
Since being diagnosed I'm battling severe anxiety and depression and trying all kinds of modalities to cope with it such as positive affirmations, breathing exercises, listening to binaural sounds with little success. I will raise this problem with my Oncology team and posted this in the hope someone can give some effective advice on how to overcome this continuing squeamish feeling and associated uneasiness in the interim.
My meeting with the Oncology team did little to assuage my feelings of anxiety - if anything it (the meeting) kinda exaccerbated it.
I've since consulted a Clinical Psychologist which seemed to help and will continue seeing her at the behest and referral of my local GP.
As a measure of combating my feelings of general withdrawal from society I will try to seek the company of fellow travellers with the aim of joining some kind of discussion group something akin to Alcoholic Anonymous.
And Kate, thanks for showing an interest.
Mate, I can only tell you what works for me, and what I think MAY work for some people ...
Distraction & Compartmentalisation.
I have friends with full-blown anxiety disorders, and I understand that it's not a "shake it off soldier" kind of situation, it can be pervasive and progressive.
What I reckon is a viable approach:
- keep a diary of all the cancer stuff .. appointment dates etc, so you don't forget anything
- aside from the diary and participation in treatment, do your absolute best not to dwell on it
- when you start thinking about cancer and the future with cancer, instead choose your favourite hobby and indulge shamelessly in it. If you're an online gamer, spend six hours gaming, if you're a fitness guru, run for two hours - totally inject yourself in your favourite hobby
Anxiety wants to get it's hooks in and once it does, it's like trying to remove a fish-hook .. more likely it's going to drag you further in a direction you don't want.
I think that selfish, gluttonous distraction might help (and if nothing else, might give SOME fun along the way). I think of it as a bit like bathing in thick glutinous vaseline, such that when the hooks land on you, it's possible they may not catch and instead slip past, leaving you unscathed.
It's probably a bit of a daily battle, but if you can find some kind of habit-forming strategy that allows you to bypass the anxiety, I'd work on it. I think it's important to step back and strategically experiment with it, rather than get caught up in (and dragged down by) the pathology/symptoms of the anxiety.
Also mate - on 'withdrawal from society'
For me, I absolutely turtled up. Selfishness in the face of cancer i OK, I was protective of my own mental health, and also wanting to hide the worst of the struggle from my children, and I did a pretty great job in retrospect.
So a deliberate withdrawal if it's beneficial is good, don't feel guilty about it.
BUT ... if it's symptomatic of depression, then I'd strongly suggest to do everything you can to fight it. Think of your strategic actions against it as medicine. Medicine isn't fun, it tastes like shit .. but if you don't take it, you will be so much worse off.
Sounds to me like you need facts, you need numbers, you need to get a handle on your disease.
You strike me as a logical, data rational person, and there's a massive amount of data available - if you do searches about your disease type, and include "pubmed" you'll find stats and research info about the disease. The news may be awful .. but sometimes bad news can liberate us from anxiety as it's better knowing. But the news may be great too ..
My initial survival chance was 40%, and info was slow coming, in the 3 weeks between initial tentative diagnosis and the full blown treatment plan, there was so much uncertainty - and I armed myself with some of the above .. I learned that having a genetic marker called P16 (originating from HPV+ cancer) gave me a +20% or more survival chance. I learned that having a spouse gave me +2%, I learned all kinds of little factoids like that, and just understanding my disease and my chances better allowed me to wind back and ....
COMPARTMENTALISE - put cancer in one bucket, life in the other, separate them and do your best to keep them separate. Face one, enjoy the other, wherever possible.
DISTRACTION - self indulgently throw yourself into whatever it is that feeds your soul the richest and deepest food. I don't care if it's bulgarian online strippers or playing Dungeons and Dragons .. replace your anxiety with your most shamefully enjoyable hobby/pleasure/addiction (er .. except really destructive stuff like needle drugs and other disclaimers). For me it was computer games :/
Thank you for replying - much appreciated your reply and words of encouragement.
Today, I just completed the third of five rounds of Radiotherapy and will be attending the fourth tomorrow and completing the process the day following.
The hardest issue I am facing is bringing under control the continuing feelings of mental stress using a variety of modalities including mindfulness,cogntive behaviour therapy,binarual beats diversion and recently have sought psychological counselling.
One of the things you raised that particularly resonated with me in your post was to compartmentalise i.e. put cancer in one bucket - life in the other - seperate them and do my best to do so. In fact I consider the mental stress in dealing with my diagnosis way exceeds whatever the outcome of my treatment plan.
Again, I thank you for your humanity and wish you and all my fellow travellers all very best.
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