As we continue through Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to use this edition of the Cancer Pro blog to look at ways you might cope when you’ve been diagnosed with Cervical Cancer.
Understanding your feelings
Being diagnosed with Cervical Cancer can leave you with many different feelings, from being shocked and upset to feeling frightened and uncertain, confused, and numb, there may even be a sense of guilt for some.
You may witness some of these feelings or all of them. Or you might feel completely different. Remember, at times like this, everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it’s simply hard to absorb the fact that you have cancer.
Whatever you think you shouldn’t be alarmed because experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. During the early stages of the diagnosis, all sorts of emotions are likely to come and go.
Start by helping yourself.
You may be able to cope better and make more informed decisions once you understand what Cervical cancer means and the types of treatments available to you.
Remember, in the early stages of your diagnosis information is vital; the more you have, the more it will help you understand what to expect. However, taking in masses of information all at once can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed.
So to help you, make a list of questions before you see your doctor, and take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors and nurses to explain things a few times if you need them to, and remember you don’t have to sort everything out at once, as it might take some time to deal with each issue.
Talk to other people.
While talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. You need to remember that not everyone wants to talk; some people are frightened of the emotions this could bring up and might feel that you won’t be able to cope with your situation. In a case like this, don’t take it personally.
Help your family and friends by letting them know you’re okay to talk about what’s happening and how you feel. By talking and being open, it can help increase trust and support between you and them.
However, you might find it easier and more comfortable talking to someone outside your friends and family. Most cancer clinics and hospitals have cancer information nurses who can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can help you with what you need and can also give you more information. Or if you prefer, you could meet with a counselor who specialises in dealing with cancer patients.
Cervical cancer treatment can cause physical problems that may affect how you feel about yourself and how you cope.
For example, your treatment may mean that you can no longer have children. Knowing this can be incredibly difficult to cope with if you were hoping to have them in the future, and knowing this may lead in some cases to strain on your relationship. Even for those women who have already been through the menopause, having surgery to remove their womb can still be very upsetting.
However, before starting any treatment, your doctor will talk to you about how it may affect your fertility and what options are open to you. There might even be the possibility to store your eggs or embryos before treatment starts.
If you haven’t already been through the menopause and you require surgery that includes removing the ovaries, you will experience early menopause, which can cause hot flushes and sweats.
While hot flushes usually start to improve over time, there are various things you can do to help cope, including keeping yourself and your environment cool and making changes to your diet. Talk to your nurse about how to manage and deal with these symptoms.
Other aspects of the treatments may cause tiredness. However, resting along with doing some gentle physical activity can help. Typically after treatment, the expected energy levels return between 6 and 12 months. But up to a third of women with cervical cancer complain of tiredness two years after treatment.
The physical and emotional changes you have might also affect your relationships and sex life. Cancer and cancer treatment can sometimes cause physical changes to your sexual organs, affecting the way you feel and react to having sex. Such a situation can be very confusing and difficult to cope with, and it can sometimes make it very difficult to respond to your partner during sexual activity.
However, there are things that you can do to communicate your feelings to your loved ones, and again your doctor will be able to guide you.
Along with the physical and emotional sides of coping with Cervical cancer, there will be various practical concerns that you and your family may need to cope with, and these could include
- money matters
- financial support, such as government benefits, employment sick pay and welfare grants
- work issues and your ability to continue to work or return to work
Consult your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a more significant issue later.
Finally, when it comes to coping with Cervical cancer, remember you are alone and never be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding how to cope with Cervical cancer, please visit www. cancer-pro.com.