I hadn’t planned to start my National Cancer Survivors Month blog articles with this topic but a friend posted something today that brought it to mind. It’s a topic I don’t think we talk about enough. Studies show that one in five cancer survivors experience full-blown PTSD or at least some of the symptoms.
Many think people can only experience PTSD after going through a dramatic event like war, a natural disaster or a serious accident but studies have shown and survivors can tell you that going through a diagnosis of cancer and then its treatment can also bring on PTSD. For some it can manifest shortly after diagnosis and decrease over time, while for others it may manifest later on and for some it can persist and worsen over time. Often depression and anxiety go along with PTSD.
As any survivor can tell you, the days or even weeks prior to a scan or test can bring with it a boat load of emotions and fears. It’s also pretty common for survivors to get stressed about any new lump or pain they feel. As much as we try to put cancer out of our minds they can be random triggers that bring us staring face to face with it again.
As a survivor community, we need to raise awareness of this issue and be willing to speak out about it and get help to manage the emotional upheaval when we experience it. The mantras like “fight like a girl”, “be a cancer warrior”, or “be positive and you will get through this” are espoused by survivors and their caregivers sometimes to the point that a survivor feels ashamed or guilty to express any doubt or different emotion than purely positive ones, for fear they will be thought of as weak or they will create more worry and fear in their family and friends.
It’s important to pay attention to and process the trauma of the diagnosis and treatment. This can help to make a person less vulnerable to PTSD later down the road. Talk about your feelings with a close friend or family member or a mental health professional.
Here are some suggestions that can help you cope with the symptoms of PTSD-
- Mediation- Helps to balance your bodies systems, relax and reduce stress.
- Sleep- Getting enough sleep can help to reduce stress levels. 7-9 hrs each night.
- Exercise- Exercise help increase the releasing of endorphins that promote happy positive feelings within us.
- Discuss your feelings with supportive people.
- Join a support group with others who also are experiencing similar feelings.
It would be great to hear from others on this topic. Please share in a comment.