May 18, 2015
How to cope with loss of control as a cancer patient
BY Traci Newsom
As a cancer patient, it often can feel like you've lost control. You can't control your diagnosis, your test results or your cancer treatment side effects. You may even feel like you've loss control over your work, finances and the reactions you receive from loved ones.
When you feel that loss of control, it's important to focus on what you can control. Remind yourself that even when you can't control something, you have the power to decide how you will respond to the situation.
Here are nine ways you can begin to regain your sense of control:
- Learn about your cancer diagnosis, treatment options and side effects. Knowing what to expect can help you feel less overwhelmed, more in control and better equipped to make decisions. Focus on each day. Consider what you can do now. You can't change the past, and the future is filled with unknowns that are beyond anyone's reach.
- Do some advance care planning. Think about what your goals for care are. Try pinpointing what things you need to feel like your life has meaning and quality. As a part of the advance care planning process, identify someone to make health care decisions for you just in case you find yourself in a situation where you can't make them for yourself.
- Set short-term, achievable goals. Think about how you can strengthen your emotional, physical or spiritual health. Reach out to a friend for support. Take a walk and get some fresh air. Engage in prayer or meditation. Visit MD Anderson's Chapel or talk to someone from our Department of Spiritual Care and Education for spiritual guidance.
- Avoid thinking in terms of 'should.' Don't dwell on what you should or should not do, or what you should or should not have said. Criticizing yourself is not productive. Instead, focus on what you need to do to feel cared for moving forward.
- Seek out happiness and enjoyment. Carve out time for yourself and what makes you happy. Maybe it's spending time with friends, surfing the Internet for funny articles, going to the park, or watching a favorite movie. If you aren't sure what makes you happy, start looking for new things that might bring joy to your life. This is good self-care and something you can control.
- Find ways to express your emotions, both positive and negative. Talk with a friend, family member, counselor or spiritual advisor. Journaling also is a helpful way of expressing thoughts and feelings. It can give you important insights about yourself, life, treatment, etc. Accept your feelings without judgment.
- Be proud of your strength and courage. Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small. This will help you feel empowered and more motivated to keep moving forward.
- Consider how this experience helps you grow. Every experience is a life lesson that builds wisdom, emotional strength and knowledge. During this journey, you may make new friends or draw closer to your loved ones. Perhaps your experience will prompt you to make changes to your lifestyle or embrace other aspects of life you previously ignored.
A cancer diagnosis comes with many emotions and challenges. If you are having trouble coping, consider talking with family or friends, or seek help through your social work counselor. MD Anderson social work counselors can provide counseling, help you identify coping strategies, and connect you and your family members with support groups and other support resources.
For more information on counseling, support groups, or advance care planning, contact the Department of Social Work at 713-792-6195, or tell your nurse or doctor that you would like speak with a social work counselor.
When you feel that loss of control, it's important to focus on what you can control.
Social Work Counselor