Emotional Stages – How Do You Survive Cancer Emotionally?
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be soul-crushing and life-altering, and you may undergo several emotional stages, all within a short period of time. You may experience confusion over what the next years of your life may look like or anger over how things are going. You might also feel sadness and anxiety over the fact that things will not go the way you had planned. In fact, cancer and the uncertainty surrounding its evolution are associated with psychological distress in up to 30–50% of cancer cases. No matter how you are feeling, your emotions are valid.
Coping with your emotions is an important part of your lung cancer journey. Although positive thinking and meditation have not been proven to control cancer growth, they may help ease the side effects of a cancer diagnosis and its related treatments. Learn more about the 5 main emotional stages of a cancer diagnosis and discover coping methods that you can use to make your cancer journey more bearable.
The 5 Stages of Cancer Emotions
Many people with a serious diagnosis often undergo the cancer grieving process. According to the Kubler-Ross Model, there are five stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While there are certain emotional stages that are commonly recognized as part of the grieving process, it’s important to understand that each individual’s experience is unique and can vary significantly depending on the individual and their personal experience with cancer. Regardless of how you feel, it’s essential to acknowledge that your emotions are valid and genuine.
- Denial: During the denial phase, which is often the first emotion people experience during grief, you may feel avoidance, confusion, shock, or fear of a cancer diagnosis. Thoughts like, “This can’t be happening to me,” or “There must be a mistake,” are more than normal during this stage.
- Anger: The second stage of grief is cancer anger, in which you may experience feelings of frustration, irritation, and anxiety. Thoughts like, “This isn’t fair, why me?!” or “What will my family do once I’m gone?” are a common place and can lead to high anxiety and general discomfort. It’s always best to try to keep your emotions in check when dealing with a health scare no matter how devastating the future may seem.
- Bargaining: Once the initial shock wears off, you may begin to struggle to find meaning or reach out to others to tell your story and receive emotional stages support. It may even seem like those around you are the one’s with the problem and even your doctors are wrong. “Please Doctor, there has got to be a mistake” or “I can’t accept this. There must be something we can do. Please, check again.” This bargaining only weighs on the person with a cancer diagnosis as it doesn’t provide any relief other than wishful thinking.
- Depression: After the diagnosis settles in, you may start feeling depressed, overwhelmed, helpless, hostile, and flighty. These are all normal emotions to experience during the depression stage of grief. “What’s the point in even fighting?” or “I’m going to die anyways…” This level of negative thinking varies among person to person, but once it kicks in, the person with the diagnosis is likely to feel helpless and depressed in their situation.
- Acceptance: After coming to terms with the cancer and emotions, you will likely begin to find acceptance. This stage is an essential point in moving forward with your life. “I know this journey will be hard, but were going to try out best” or “I’m going to face my cancer regardless of the cost.” At this stage the person with a diagnosis has accepted their fate in their own unique way. This is key to moving on and having some joy in your life.
3 Coping Strategies for Overcoming Emotional Challenges
Living with cancer like mesothelioma or lung cancer and its associated emotional difficulties is a crucial aspect of leading a happy and satisfying life. Dealing with such a deadly disease can seem like a full-time commitment, and anyone who has undergone treatment understands it can have a vast impact on their mental health. However, there are several ways to manage your emotions and improve your well-being while in any of the 5 stages of emotional grief stages detailed above. While the success rate of these strategies largely relies on the quality of time invested into them, they are definitely a good place to start.
- Talk About It: Sometimes, it can be comforting to express your emotions to someone you trust. Speaking with a loved one can help you cope with your feelings and help you share some of the emotional stages baggage one carries with them when undergoing a highly stressful event. Additionally, joining a support group can provide you with a sense of community and help you learn from others who have gone through similar experiences. You might even find some new helpful strategies to manage your emotions there as well. Simply sharing your thoughts and feelings to someone who then can validates those feeling, can have a largely beneficial effect on your mental health well-being.
- Practice Wellness: It’s easy to get consumed by emotional distress and let things go by the wayside and because of this, it becomes even more important to take care of your body in those times. This includes eating healthy, exercising, getting plenty of rest, and practicing wellness techniques like yoga or meditation to ease the mind. These things may seem much more difficult when going through laborious treatment plans and painful symptoms, but it’s crucial to incorporate some strategy into your recovery plan. The mind and body go hand in hand, so it’s important to check in with both during this cancer journey process.
- Find Joy: It’s common to experience a period of sadness or feeling down, but it’s important not to get stuck in that state. While it’s okay to take a break and acknowledge your emotions, it’s equally important to find ways to feel joy again. Trying out a new hobby, visiting loved ones, or traveling can help cope with emotions and replace them with positive ones. Life is short, even for those who live to a 100, so for those dealing with deadly cancers, taking the time to show gratitude for the most important things in their life is even more critical. Laugh, smile, sneeze, whatever you do, just take time to appreciate the joys of life and what you do have as it can have a profound effect on your mental health which will then in tune support your body and treatment plan.
Supporting a Loved One Through Their Emotional Stages
It can be tough to watch loved ones experience difficult emotional stages over uncontrollable situations like cancer. However, it is crucial to support them during these challenging times. Supporting a patient coping with cancer involves providing practical help, like assisting with daily tasks, transportation, and managing finances. Emotionally, it is helpful to listen without judgment, offer encouragement, and respect your loved one’s feelings. Encourage participation in enjoyable activities and provide regular communication.
Family and friends of those coping with a lung cancer diagnosis should practice being present, educate themselves, respect boundaries, avoid clichés, and prioritize their own well-being. The emotional stress that caregivers and family members go through alongside their loved ones and patients shouldn’t be understated. It’s important for all parties to check in with each other to address concerns with boundaries or just emotional difficulties that they may be dealing with. Supporting a loved one through cancer isn’t easy, especially when they are going through some of the harder stages of grief, specific to them, but it remains an incredibly important aspect for a person with cancers recovery plan.
Addressing Stage 4 Cancer and Anger
Because stage 4 cancer patients often experience a poor prognosis, it can feel isolating and like you have nothing to live for. Anger may arise from feelings of injustice, frustration with treatment outcomes, or existential distress. Stage 4 cancer patients should try acknowledging and expressing emotions through therapy, journaling, or support groups. Additionally, mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help manage anger, along with physical activities like yoga or walking. While this may be easier said then done, it is still crucial for people who have been diagnosed with such a late stage cancer that anger is more than common, but regulating it and not letting it control your emotional is so so important for treatment. This is why it is also important to seek emotional support from loved ones, and other mental health professionals who can provide a safe space for processing.
How to Enjoy Life With Cancer
You can still enjoy life even while battling cancer. Living life with cancer can be challenging, but it’s important to cherish every moment and set small goals that bring happiness. It’s also crucial to stay close to those who uplift you and celebrate each milestone, no matter how modest. Embrace the joy and beauty in everyday life, and let the love and support of those around you guide you through the journey with courage and resilience. Remember that cancer doesn’t define you – you are so much more than your diagnosis and can live a full life even after a diagnosis.
The team at Lung Cancer Center understands that coping with a cancer diagnosis is a never-ending journey and has years of experience dealing with stories like yours. Let us help you deal with cancer as we report the latest clinical trials, connect patients with treatment centers, and secure financial restitution for those who seek legal assistance. It’s not too late to seek treatment and it’s definitely not too late to start now.