November 2021

Coping with the Emotional Side of Cancer

Change is a constant. This is especially true if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Treatment options, daily schedules, finances, and future plans—there are many things for you and your loved ones to think about. All of this is likely to evoke a variety of feelings.

Anger, sadness, fear, guilt, and more are to be expected—whether it’s you who has cancer or a loved one. These emotions may be intense at times and change often. That’s OK. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. People rarely see things, or cope with them, in exactly the same way.


So, what’s a person to do? Here are a few tips that may help your mental health moving forward:


  • Let it out. Don’t keep all your thoughts and feelings inside or pretend to be OK when you’re not. If you’re not comfortable talking with friends and family, consider seeing a counselor or joining a support group. A stress management class may help you feel better. Ask your healthcare provider if you need help finding resources.


  • Partner with providers. Accurate information will help you feel more in charge and less afraid, and will help you let go of some worries. At appointments, ask questions and speak up when you don’t understand something. Tell your provider about any symptoms you’re having, such as sleeping problems, headaches, or appetite changes. They could be caused by medicine—or could be related to depression, which can be treated alongside cancer.


  • Stay active. Do what you already like—or try something new! When you have the energy, take part in activities that keep you engaged or bring you joy. Reading, crafts, music, and meditation are a few pursuits that are less physically taxing. But exercise can help keep you strong and feeling better. Stretch, do yoga, ride a bike, swim, or take a walk. Check with your provider about which activities are safe for you.


  • Ask for help. There may be times when you can’t do as much as you would like. Let others help with preparing healthy meals, cleaning, running errands, walking the dog, and other tasks when you’re not up to it. It doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement.


  • Don’t give up your goals. Having something to look forward to or work toward may help you cope during treatment. Maybe there’s a new grandchild on the way, or you can research a trip you want to take.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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