Cancer Fighters Thrive

FALL 2013

Cancer Fighters Thrive is a quarterly print and online magazine bringing readers practical, innovative and inspirational information about cancer treatment and survivorship.

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SPECIAL FEATURE MANAGING STRESS and CANCER Patients and caregivers can benefit from a variety of coping tools and strategies to help manage anxiety and stress during cancer treatment. By Nancy Christie hirty-seven-year-old Michelle Hastings, like others with more effectively. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer, is dealing with the one-two punch that the dis- people who use coping strategies, such as relaxation and stress ease delivers. The self-described "wife, mother, daughter, management techniques, "have been shown to have lower lev- sister, friend and cancer warrior" is currently undergoing treat- els of depression, anxiety and symptoms related to the cancer ment for stage IV colon cancer at Cancer Treatment Centers of and its treatment."1 T America® (CTCA) in Goodyear, Arizona, where she is coping with both the physical impact of the disease and its treatment as Stress and the Cancer Patient well as the emotional and psychological stress it brings. Stressors that can affect cancer patients range from worries In a recent post on her blog, "Mission: Remission" about finances, body image, intimacy, sexual functioning and (, Michelle described the inten- quality of life to concerns about the diagnosis, available treat- sity of managing the combined physical and emotional burden ment options and, especially, prognosis, says Corliss Ivy, LPC, she faced during a tough stretch of treatment: "My physical Mind-Body Therapist at CTCA in Zion, Illinois. "Most adults state was precarious. My mental state was just awful. It's re- with cancer experience significant stress," Ivy says. ally hard to try to keep a smile on your face when you feel In Maureen Ragan's case, it wasn't so much the initial diag- like death warmed over…Cancer, as I've said before, has a nosis of colon cancer in 2005 that worried her as it was the re- way of amplifying all emotions." currence of the disease several years later, after she had been Many cancer patients experience a similar perfect storm of cancer-free. "The return of cancer to my stomach, liver and physical and emotional stress during treatment. This anxi- lymph nodes gave me great concerns, as I lost my mother and ety and worry can cause cracks in patients' psychological and brother to stomach cancer," Maureen says. "I knew the severity emotional foundation, leaving them even more vulnerable. of the diagnosis." Niki Barr, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Emotional Well- Ivy says that coping with fear and loss in the wake of a can- ness: The Other Half of Treating Cancer (Orion Wellspring, 2013; cer diagnosis as Maureen describes "often produces feelings of $14.95), says that the stress patients experience can be "exhaust- helplessness, anger, fear, confusion or even hopelessness." At ing and debilitating over the long run and greatly negatively the same time, "patients and their caregivers also balance care affect their ability to handle the challenges of treatments." for other family members, bills and other health conditions" The good news is that while it may be impossible to elimi- because the reality is that life—and its attendant obligations— nate all of the causes of stress during the cancer journey, there doesn't stop when a person has cancer. Instead patients and are tools and techniques that patients can use to deal with it their families must manage their day-to-day obligations with 8 cancer fighters thrive | fall 2013

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