Mental AttitudeTo quote from "The Healing Family", "Cancer is a serious crisis - but isn't life a matter of adapting to one change after another? I believe we must continually adapt to survive, and as life goes on, we can thrive on living. There's no reason we cannot maintain a fine quality of life during a life-threatening crisis. The diagnosis of cancer is not an automatic death warrant that demands that the patient and his family stop living."
A study found that people participating in a fitness program were less depressed and anxious. Physical fitness has a direct and positive impact on psychological health. One should not rush into strenuous exercise, but it is not necessary to assume that some physical exercise is out of the question. By talking with your physician and possibly working with a physical therapist, a cancer patient often can do a great deal of exercise resulting in the improvement of both his emotional and physical condition. Ohio State University found that exercise helped 93% of 251 cancer patients feel better physically and mentally.
Cancer victims who express emotions - expecially their anger - and who seek support to help them cope with the disease fare better than those who adopt a stoic attitude and suppress their emotions, new studies show.
Among the breast cancer patients, those who were listless, apathetic and who withheld anger had more recurrences of cancer than patients who sought social and emotional support and expressed anger and other feelings.
Among skin cancer patients, those who subsequently died of their disease or had it spread and worsen, were more likely to have been depressed, emotionally withdrawn and silently hostile than those who had no recurrence of the disease up to three years after surgery.
The will to live is in itself an energy. It is a desire to fight for life because there is honestly something to live for. The shock and uncertainty of diagnosis cause many people to lose this and suspend living for a few weeks. This will to live will be stronger in patients who find their lives enjoyable and who have things in their lives they honestly look forward to.
One doctor stated, "About 15 to 20 percent of people who are seriously ill would prefer to die if given the opportunity, 50 to 60 percent are willing to get better so long as the doctor does the work and the medicine doesn't taste too bad. The final 15 to 20 say, 'I'll do anything I have to do to get well. Just show me.'" It is these latter people for whom this book is written.
This same doctor states that there is no danger in giving false hope because "there is no such thing as false hope...it's never therapy that heals, it's people who heal, and the best role for doctors is to encourage that healing process, to help some of the 50 to 60 percent who want the doctor to do all of the work to move over into the realm of the survivors."
Commitments for future activities can produce a powerful energy. Great results can come about from working toward meaningful goals. Family members should set goals for the patient and encourage plans for the future.
The low self-esteem confirmed by so many sutdies of cancer patients immediately begins to rise when they are encouraged to be selfish and express their anger. Once a patient becomes "I" oriented and emotionally expressive, they can make progress in their life and their healing.
The reason it is so important for a cancer patient to develop a more fulfilling, less stressful emotional life is that chronic depression and stress depress the immune response. Drugs and therapies are probably not as effective against cancer as the specific antigens an individual's body can create. Isolation increases depression and anxiety and can work against healing. A recent study showed people who had pets or plants to care for recuperated faster than those who didn't. Living things that depend upon us for survival give us a purpose and a feeling of being needed.
Make it a point to set aside time every day for your own pleasure. This can be anything from a sport or playing cards or talking on the phone or going to a movie. The important thing is to break your normal routine just for the sake of doing something that gives you pleasure. The mere act of doing something exclusively for your own benefit is good therapy.
Outside support is essential to a cancer patient. Talking your feelings over with someone allows you to feel them fully and helps release them. There are numerous ways support can be established: through your physician, your church, your office, your team sport or a self help group. Stress management becomes crucial with the diagnosis of cancer. Exercise, relaxation, recreation and expression of feelings are ways to relieve stress.
You cannot begin to deal with stress until you realize and admit that you are under stress. Until you reach that point, you will not successfully cope with it. The mere diagnosis of cancer places a large burden of stress not only on you, but on your family and friends, which in turn adds to your stress. It is important to analyze what you are doing to adjust your priorities and responsibilities. Avoid taking on any unnecessary responsibilities during your recovery. Your goal must be to reduce stress and this must be accomplished, not only with all the positive actions, but by avoiding taking on any additional factors that could increase stress. Examples would be going in debt for a major purchase or trip because you "may not" have much time left or getting married when you had not planned to but felt you "must" because of the circumstances.