Some people who have experienced cancer can feel quite overwhelmed, particularly if side effects build up and it’s hard to continue with normal daily life. “Emotional side effects” are common – cancer is a major life stressor and we know illness often stretches peoples coping resources and may have come on top of other stresses in life. There are often decisions to be made about treatment options, work/carer roles, finances and one’s future plans, as well as tough conversations with loved ones and managing the impact on others and relationships. Difficultly sleeping, low mood, loss of energy and symptoms of stress and worry are experienced by most people some of the time, and for some people may continue after treatment has finished. It can be tough for the person having treatment as well as loved ones and carers who are vital to navigating the challenges– but help is available.
It is really important to let others know how you are traveling during and after treatment – tell your General Practitioner or a member of your cancer care team so they can talk with you about the range of support options. You do not have to just “put up with it” – getting through treatment means looking after all aspects of your wellbeing – emotional and physical – and there are many services which can be helpful. Some may involve thinking a little outside of the box – such as working with a Clinical or Consulting Psychologist, or considering medication. There is strong research evidence for the benefits of psychological interventions to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression for those dealing with cancer, and treatments include interventions such as cognitive behavioural and mindfulness strategies. Treatment isn’t “just talking” – it involves an assessment to identifying someone’s main concerns, setting goals, and using research-based strategies that have been found to be effective at reducing psychological symptoms. The Psychologist may work closely with your GP or cancer service and will discuss what to expect from treatment as well as your rights and confidentiality. More information on services Psychologists can offer is available on our website and through the website of the Australian Psychological Society at: https://www.psychology.org.au/. It may also be helpful to discuss the role of medication in your care with your doctors as this can be very helpful for some people.
Other support options can be explored by calling your state Cancer Council (ph 13 11 20) as they have information on support groups, written resources and other resources available. Please always remember that crisis services such as Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 244 63, and the 24 hour Mental Health Crisis Line 1800 011 511 are here to help, and for immediate help please always call the Emergency Call Service on 000.