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Life Beyond Cancer - Emotional Issues

Emotional issues can include:

Scroll through these topics or click on one to go directly to that content.

In addition to the physical effects that cancer and treatment have, you may be significantly overwhelmed with emotions.  Cancer has been a life altering event that has affected every aspect of your life.  Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, and fear of recurrence are all normal feelings that cancer survivors can experience.

Depression and Anxiety

Nearly 70% of cancer survivors experience depression and anxiety at some point.  Feeling angry, sad and tense are all normal; however, these emotions should lessen over time.  For some people, these emotions can deepen and linger and get in the way of your everyday life.

What can you do?

  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Talk to your health care provider about the feelings that you are experiencing
  • Consider seeing a counselor/therapist to talk about and explore your feelings
  • Introduce exercise into your everyday routine. Thirty minutes of exercise per day can decrease depression and anxiety by nearly 50%
  • Reach out to family and friends
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take care of your health.  Go to all your appointments as scheduled

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Fear of Recurrence

You are not alone if you find yourself worrying about whether your cancer will come back.  Fear of recurrence is typical the first year after treatment and is probably the most common fear that survivors have.  Though you may go years without any sign of disease, cancer survivors say the thought of recurrence is always with them. You might worry that every ache or pain is a sign of your cancer recurring. Eventually these fears will fade, though they may never go away completely.

What can you do?

  • Be honest with yourself about your feelings
  • Be open about your fears
  • Consider meeting with a counselor/therapist to explore your feelings
  • Focus on taking care of your body to be in the best possible shape, mentally and physically
  • Exercise
  • Find enjoyable ways to relax
  • Keep busy

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Anger is a natural and normal emotional response to receiving a cancer diagnosis, enduring treatment, and learning to adjust to life after cancer.  It is important to allow yourself to feel your anger and to learn healthy ways to express it.  Trying to suppress your anger can negatively impact your health, mood and relationships.  Over time, your anger should decrease as you find healthy ways to manage your diagnosis, treatment and other life changes. 

What can you do?

  • Don’t feel badly about feeling angry
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your feelings
  • Consider seeing a counselor/therapist to talk about and explore your feelings as well as to learn healthy ways to express your anger
  • Exercise.  It can reduce anger and prevent anger from building up in the future
  • Communicate with family, friends, and other supportive people
  • Write in a journal.  Writing allows you to express your emotions and can help you process your feelings
  • Manage your schedule.  Make sure to allow yourself ample time to get to treatments, appointments, work, and other commitments 
  • Schedule time to relax as well to allow your mind and body rest

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When you were diagnosed with cancer, there was a lot of fear, anxiety and stress surrounding that time in your life.  Now that you have completed, or are nearing completion of your treatment, all those projects around the house, the tasks on your “to-do” list, or going back to work are now in the forefront of your mind.  This can make you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Don’t feel you need to do everything at once.  Take time for yourself and establish a “new normal” routine.

What can you do?

  • Exercise
  • Talk to family and friends
  • Consider meeting with a counselor/therapist to find ways to manage your stress
  • Find activities that you enjoy
  • Meditation, yoga
  • Laugh!

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Grief and Loss

People cope with loss in many different ways.  Losing someone or losing a body part is very painful.  You might be grieving over the loss of control, the loss of body image, the loss of a potential future, or the loss of a loved one.  After a significant loss, you may experience all kinds of difficult and overwhelming or surprising emotions, such as guilt, shock and intense anger.  It may feel like the sadness will never let up.  While these feelings can be frightening and overwhelming, they are all normal reactions to loss.  Accepting them is part of the grieving process.

What can you do?

  • Be open to your feelings
  • Turn to family and friends
  • Consider meeting with a counselor/therapist to explore your feelings
  • If you are religious, look for comfort from your faith
  • Join a support group
  • Take care of yourself

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American Cancer

National Cancer

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way
You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky

Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion
Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic by Jeffrey Brantley

Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Joan Borysenko

Learn to Live Through Cancer: What You Need to Know and Do by Stewart Fleishman



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Learn more about the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute team

Outcomes - Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute

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