The ‘C’ word today can send shivers down our spines and the anxiety can affect our mental health just by the thought alone and make us face our biggest fears. The prevalence of breast cancer today is 28%, making it more common than we think and its treatment can affect mental health.
The diagnosis of breast cancer itself brings a huge mixture of emotions, fear, anxiety and depression. This is true not just for the patient but also the caregivers and the family. Therefore, taking care of our mental health does not only help us emotionally but also physically and overall in our treatment. Following are a few ways to help yourself during this process.
With a diagnosis like breast cancer, it is absolutely normal to feel all sorts of emotions like anxiety and . They don’t need to be consistent nor do you need to make sense of them. However, it is important that you don’t dismiss them during treatment. Instead you acknowledge and process them. Doing so with a family member or friend may be difficult as you do not want to burden them, so consider reaching out to a mental health professional who has experience working with cancer patients. They can help you process your emotions regarding different treatments such as pain due to radiation, side effects of chemotherapy, and body altering surgeries like a mastectomy, which may make a woman question her body and sexuality.
2. Be mindful & meditate
At such a time, the amount of stress and anxiety is unavoidable. It is extremely important to practice mindfulness and meditation as part of your treatment. This can be done either with the help of a professional or even by yourself, through phone apps such as Headspace and Calm. Mindfulness, deep breathing and visualization helps the body mentally as well as physically.
3. Take control of your health
When one develops a condition like breast cancer, often patients feel that they have lost control of their body along with their lives. Questions like “What did I do to get this” or “Why me” are not uncommon. It is thus important to take control of your health by being in charge of your medication, diet, exercise and lifestyle as much as you can. Ask your doctor for a care plan and be in charge of your own check-ups, follow up scans, etc. Learn about future indicators of sickness so that if any other red flags were to arise, you would be aware yourself.
4. Ask for help
It is extremely important to understand that you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. It is imperative to understand that it is absolutely normal and fine to ask others for help. Mentally, you may feel that you are not feeling as motivated or are lacking concentration while doing things – ask your loved ones you are comfortable with to help accordingly. If you are in pain and cannot do certain tasks, say so. Similarly, speak to your psychologist about whatever is going through your mind openly. It is important to remember that our thoughts may not be real but our emotions are, and we have to acknowledge and process them. Lastly, speak to your doctor regarding any physical symptoms – do not hide them as you never know what might help.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that a diagnosis like breast cancer has a huge impact on our mental health, which can further worsen our physical health and affect treatment. It is extremely important to not ignore it. Give yourself proper care and attention so that you are able to manage and cope with the illness, treatment and the remission period.