"The first thing I thought was‘ I'm going to die. " I thought I was not going to get over it because I had the concept cancer = deep-seated death. Above all, I thought I had a six-year-old daughter that I would not be able to see grow, study, laugh … That killed me. ”
Who speaks is Vanesa Gómez, 38, and one of the protagonists of Call it Cancer the awareness campaign with which the Spanish Association Against Cancer wants to stand up to the reality behind the word.
And, for sick people and their families, cancer is a disease that has a great psychological and emotional cost . Uncertainty about medical tests and treatments, the need to feel loved and understood by others, lack of information … It is common to generate negative emotions, such as anxiety, sadness, fear or anger.
To do this, it is key to understand the emotional process experienced by people affected by the disease and provide them with the psychological support they need.
In addition : Cancer costs Spain at least 19.3 billion euros
The word cancer and its psychological impact
The word cancer still contains today a series of connotations that make, in many cases, the most threatening disease of all (above others also considered as serious).
“Traditionally, cancer has been a disease that inevitably led to death. It was intended to hide his diagnosis and even mention the word cancer for many people is still complicated. Probably, no disease has withstood a negative stigma as strong over time as cancer, so that the old myths have persisted despite the fact that, in recent years, research, early detection and treatments have advanced so much that there has been a notable increase in survival ”, explain the psychooncologists Carmen Yélamos and Elísabeth Berzal.
Emotions after cancer diagnosis
It is not surprising, therefore, that, according to a report of the World Health Organization (2002), more than one third of people with cancer suffer from clinical anxiety and depression.
“Cancer is a turning point in the life of affected person There is an impact that consists of a series of phases that begin with the experimentation of an initial shock, denial and disbelief, followed by confusion, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and fears and, finally, a phase of readjustment to the diagnosis ”, they point out.
Logically, all this affects how the person sees and is now defined, in his self-concept and personal identity. It goes from being a person with a "normal" life to being a "sick person" or "patient." This can trigger different emotional responses caused by the lack of control over the situation and events :
- Depending on the process and phase of the disease, intense and unpleasant emotions may appear. Fear, sadness or guilt, loss of appetite and sleep disturbances experience intrusive thoughts about the diagnosis and its impact on the future, concentration difficulties …
- It is also frequent the sense of disbelief, accompanied by thoughts like "this cannot be happening to me" which can trigger a denial of everything related to the disease.
- Treatments and their side effects often cause discomfort and limitations. Treatments can influence the person's body image, as well as their sexuality their fertility and their self-esteem.
In any case, the changes after diagnosis are not always negative. Personal values undergo changes due to cancer, which make life be viewed from another perspective . Thus, some people who have suffered from this disease verbalize, even, who have learned a lot about themselves and have improved their quality of life.
Managing emotions to deal with illness
The way you deal with illness influences your quality of life. In this sense, expressing our concerns is a fundamental process to better manage the emotional whirlwind that is emerging right now.
“People with cancer and their families may have difficulties to identify and understand what they are feeling, but also to communicate it to their environment . Sometimes, they do not express what they feel for fear of harming people around them or for feeling guilty of their own emotions. However, in the long term, the lack of close and intimate communication can produce more feelings of loneliness and isolation. And vice versa: generating a climate of trust, support and understanding usually promotes a state of calm and well-being that helps the person to face this process, ”advise the experts in psycho-oncology of the AECC.