People feel so many emotions when they find out that their cancer has come back. Shock, fear, anger, and denial are just a few. The new diagnosis hits them as hard as it did the first time, or even harder.
Regardless of your first reaction, starting cancer treatment again can place even more demands on your mind and spirit. You'll have good days and bad days. So just remember that it's okay to feel a lot of different emotions.
Some of these emotions may be ones you have had at other times in your life. But you may be feeling them more intensely. If you have dealt with them in the past, you may be able to cope with them now, too. If some of the feelings are new, or are so strong that it is hard to get through everyday activities, you may want to ask for help.
There are many people who may be able to help you. These include health psychologists, oncology social workers, other mental health experts, and leaders in your faith or spiritual community. They know many ways to help you cope with your feelings.
"Once you get diagnosed again and go through more surgeries or procedures, your life is not normal. It's always in the back of your mind. What now? What's next?" - Margaret
Stress is a normal reaction to cancer. After all, you're dealing with a lot: treatment, family, your job, money, and day-to-day living. Sometimes, you may not even notice that you are stressed. But your family and friends probably see a change.
Anything that makes you feel calm or relaxed may help. So try to think of things that relax you and that you enjoy doing. Some people try deep breathing, listening to tapes that have nature sounds, or listening to music.
"I just keep telling myself, 'You've got to have hope, you've got to have faith, because anything can happen.'" - Phil
While you may be sad or depressed about your cancer recurrence, you do have reasons to feel hopeful. Science has advanced and cancer treatments have improved. So more people are surviving cancer than ever before. Nearly 10 million people who have a history of cancer are alive today.
In other words, cancer is becoming a disease that doctors can manage. To help build your sense of hope:
* Plan your days as you have always done.
* Don't limit the things you like to do just because you have cancer.
* Look for your own reasons to have hope.
"I do have a lot of bad days, but you know, I don't talk about those. I forget those. I think about all the good things, and I have a lot of nice times when I'm with my grandchildren, when I go to church, and when I'm with my friends." - Helen
Some people see their cancer coming back as a "wake-up call." They may realize the importance of enjoying the little things in life. They go places they've never been. They finish projects they had started but put aside. They spend more time with friends and family. They mend broken relationships.
It may be hard at first, but you can find joy in your life. Take note of what makes you smile. Pay attention to the things you do each day that you enjoy. They can be as simple as drinking your morning coffee, sitting with a pet, or talking to a friend. These small, day-to-day activities can give you comfort and pleasure.
You can also do things that are more meaningful to you. Everyone has special things, both large and small, that bring meaning to their life. For you, it may be visiting a garden in your city or town. It may be praying in a certain chapel. Or it could be playing golf or some other sport that you love. Whatever you choose, embrace the things that bring you joy when you can.