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Mind Matters | Worried about cancer diagnosis

The Annapurna Express

The Annapurna Express

Mind Matters | Worried about cancer diagnosis

If there is a mental health issue you struggle with, email it to us at [email protected] We will get your query answered by a trained psychiatrist/psycho-social counselor in the upcoming issue

Query

I am a 52-year-old banker who was diagnosed with breast cancer six months ago. At my doctor's suggestion, I will have to undergo chemotherapy, as well as remove one of my breasts to stop the cancer from spreading. My doctor tells me that I will survive, but I feel sad and hopeless. Somehow, I have no enthusiasm to undergo treatment and get better. Lately, I have been avoiding my friends, family and well-wishers. Is this normal? -A confused patient

Dr-Rishav-Koirala

Answer by Rishav Koirala, Psychiatrist and Researcher

For most cancer patients, it is very difficult to accept the fact that they have cancer. It is normal to feel frustrated in a situation like yours. The reluctance to undergo treatment is also fairly common, as the news of cancer can make patients emotionally vulnerable. 

Chemotherapy has many kinds of mental and physical effects on the human body. It can result in loss of hair and weight, which is directly connected to the individual’s appearance. For most cancer patients, the thought of this can be very stressful. They are unable to come to terms with the fact that they will undergo physical changes. After all, our appearance is part of our identity.  

I want to assure you that feeling this way is normal. But letting this escalate will worsen your stress. As a cancer patient, you need enough rest and a positive outlook, which is not possible if you focus on the negative and keep imagining bad scenarios for yourself. 

One thing you can do to stop overthinking negative thoughts is give them a positive spin. For instance, if you are worried about losing your hair, focus on the long-term outcome and not the temporary effects of therapy. The hair will grow back once the treatment is over. More importantly, you will be cancer-free and healthy again.

Yes, it is difficult to stay positive when you have been diagnosed with cancer. But positivity is something you practice and it is a gradual process.

You should also remember that you cannot tackle this situation on your own. You need people to talk to. So, rather than avoiding interactions, I suggest you find someone whom you are comfortable sharing your thoughts, someone who will listen to you and give you the right suggestion. Doing this can improve your depressive symptoms. 

If these suggestions do not work, you can always consult a psychiatrist or a psychologist, who can help you navigate this difficult process.