Let’s Talk

Cancer is hard. The treatment is painful, long, difficult, and anxiety-ridden. The disease attacks your body but so does the various treatment regimens. So the diagnosis and treatment is hard on the patient. But you know what; it can be sometimes just as hard on your family and loved ones.

What made it easier on my family and loved ones was that I sought out the assistance of a talk therapist who I learned would guide me and support me through the emotional ups and downs that I would go through in this fight I had coming up. Specifically, I sought out a talk therapist who specialized in helping cancer patients.

To be entirely honest, I have always had a higher level of anxiety than most people I knew well. I struggle with anxiety all of my life…way before my cancer diagnosis. During active cancer treatment, I saw my talk therapist weekly. Now, after five years out, I see her when I feel I need her, to help me stay on track. Who wants sadness, fear, anger, or stress coming out sideways at his or her loved ones? They have been dealing with my illness in different ways themselves, but their overall feeling of helplessness is not helped at all by someone so on an emotional precipice that they might lash out in anger, crumble in hopeless tears, or be stressed out at the drop of a hat at any moment. My talk therapist allowed me a safe place to experience those emotions so my family would not have to.

Plus, your family means well, but most don’t know what to say to give you comfort. Family will love you. Friends will support you. A talk therapist will tell you what you need to hear instead of what you think you want to hear. That is an important distinction.

When managing a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing fear of recurrence, it can be an essential choice. Do not try to tackle cancer alone. It is too big and life changing to go it alone. Just don’t.

Most people who have not had cancer just do not understand. If you make it through active cancer treatment, they assume you have “beaten it.” As we cancer survivors know, that may or may not be the case. We are left to recover and to try to appear normal just as soon as hair starts to grow back and we begin to look normal.

What can an oncology talk therapist offer? They can offer you a knowledgeable perspective; a safe place to cry loudly when you need it; a good listen; and techniques to cope with the anger, ongoing fear, and the worry that comes with a cancer diagnosis. A good talk therapist is supportive but still objective. Do you feel like you are the only one who cried that hard or got that angry or felt that hopeless? Your talk therapist can let you know where you fall on any of those continuums and help you manage your very understandable upset feelings and worried thoughts.

I would like to share the benefits of a good talk therapist with you. But first, I would like to emphasize the importance of finding a talk therapist that is a good fit for you. Over the years, with my anxiety and other life struggles, I have worked with several different talk therapists. They each have had their strengths and weaknesses, and you owe it to yourself to find one that you “click” with. Like finding the right anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication, this can sometimes take time, but in the end, it is very worth it. You owe this to yourself and to your loved ones. Seriously.

There are many benefits to a talk therapist. A talk therapist will accompany you through your cancer treatment and beyond. A talk therapist will listen and offer concrete suggestions and tools to help your emotional wellbeing. Having trouble sleeping? Feeling down? Consumed sometimes by worry or fear? Struggling with anxiety? A talk therapist can offer specific techniques to help you with those issues. I have said it before and I will say it again: It helps to understand that you are having very normal reactions to a very abnormal situation, in this case, a cancer diagnosis. Chemotherapy can also contribute to having whacked out emotions too. It can mess with your hormones and emotions in ways it can be difficult to anticipate.

A therapist can help you with perspective, offer reading suggestions, and provide you with coping tools. My therapist helped me curb my self-blame and worry brain. My therapist also helped me reframe my thoughts and tweak some of the nasty things I was telling myself. I learned how to focus on my external senses to get out of my worry brain. I learned visualization and breathing techniques.

My therapist taught me ways to comfort myself through cancer and beyond, and made it much easier for me as well as my family to deal with my illness.

-Carol Fawlks

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Posted in Blog Posts.