Depression and anxiety are common responses to a cancer diagnosis and its subsequent treatment. You might feel overwhelmed by this diagnosis, or feel like treatment is taking over in your life. Deciding on treatment options, finding the time and money for medical care, and communicating with loved ones can also add to your stress. In addition, some anticancer drugs can contribute to feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression.
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Along with feeling depressed or anxious, you might also feel guilty about how you are feeling. Some people who receive treatment may not feel as well as they hoped during and after treatment. And despite their best efforts, they might be unable to feel grateful or happy with their progress. These people feel guilty that they do not appreciate all the efforts of people who aim to help them when they feel unable to help themselves.
It is important not to overlook these feelings while you are being treated for cancer. Treatment for depression has been shown to be beneficial for people with cancer. Studies have shown that depressed people who have serious illness are more likely to have more severe symptoms of depression and illness. Research also suggests that treating depression leads to better prognostic results.
Not all patients will experience the same symptoms of depression. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, depression is different from “cockroaches” and “bruises”. A depressed person experiences serious feelings of hopelessness for an extended period of time. Almost all aspects of life are affected, including emotions, physical health, relationships and work. People with depression do not see a “light at the end of the tunnel”. They only see a long, very dark tunnel and feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiety.
See your doctor if your symptoms or your mood do not improve over time. If you experience anxiety, sadness, or feel depressed most of the time every day for two or more weeks, seek help and advice from your doctor.
What you can do
While it is important to talk to your doctor about your depression and anxiety and find professional help, there are other ways you can help as well.Realize that your cancer doesn’t dictate who you are. Stay in touch with people and activities that have nothing to do with your cancer diagnosis.
You are more than just a cancer patient, and there are many aspects of your life that have nothing to do with cancer.Set small, achievable goals. For example, if you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, set yourself a single goal for the day: make a call, cook dinner, go for a walk, or whatever else motivates you.
Don’t isolate yourself. Try to interact socially at least once a day, aside from your contact with your doctors and healthcare team.Aim for light physical activity. It could be just going out to get your mail. Gradually increase your physical activity, according to your abilities.Try to do things that have nothing to do with your cancer. Read a magazine article, listen to a audio book, watch a TV comedy. Mundane or meaningful activities, the important thing is to distract yourself from your concerns.