Emotions of Cancer

Dealing with the Uncertainty of Cancer

Once you receive a diagnosis of cancer, everything can become uncertain. Your life may feel as if it has been turned upside down and you have no way to move forward. If you feel this way, there are resources available to you, so speak with your oncology team about how to access them.

The causes of uncertainty

There are many common causes of uncertainty that are shared throughout the community of those effected by cancer. These can include:

  • Fear. You may be fearful of what your treatment plan involves, or the side effects of your treatment, or how your body may react. You may fear having to rely on friends and family and lose your sense of independence. It is important to work through these fears with a mental heath professional such as a counselor, psychologist or even a friend if these options make you uncomfortable.
  • Being stuck in limbo. When you are diagnosed with cancer, it can feel like you are stuck. Your whole world may seem as if it has halted, and your plans for the future may not be the same. You may feel like you can no longer commit to the smallest of gatherings because you are so uncertain about how you will be feeling. The best thing that you can do is to remain flexible in your plans and accept that you cannot always plan everything. Try your best to go with the flow.
  • Questioning the possibility of your treatment failing. Every person reacts differently to cancer and the related treatments. The same method will not work for everybody, so it is important to work with your oncology team and be open to trying new techniques. Communicating openly with your team about your treatment options and backup options may make you feel more in control of the situation.
  • Similarly, you may be concerned that treatment will stop working. Often, a patient will continue a treatment until the cancer becomes non-responsive that the drug. This is common for those whose cancer has spread throughout their body. While this is scary, as mentioned above, by knowing your other options, you may feel more in control.
  • Another extremely common fear is that cancer will return after it has been treated. While it is important to be on the look out for signs that your cancer has indeed returned, it is even more important not to obsess over this, as it will only increase your anxiety levels.
  • Fear of death. Perhaps the most uncertain factor of cancer is your own mortality rate. It is completely natural to fear death when you or a loved one are battling cancer. If these feelings become overwhelming, you should always seek counselling from your oncology team. 

The unknowns of cancer

By acknowledging the unknowns of cancer, you may find yourself on a whirlwind of emotions. You may feel anxious, depressed or angry and this is natural. When these emotions become overwhelming and impact you physically – for example, induce insomnia that prevents you from sleeping – you need to find methods of dealing with the unknowns of cancer.

  • Talk to a counselor, a psychologist, a friend, a doctor, a support group – whoever you feel most comfortable with about your feelings of uncertainty. Even if they cannot change these feelings, it is important to acknowledge them openly and work towards dealing with them.
  • Educate yourself as much as possible. Research everything that you can about your type of cancer and the possible treatments available to you. The more you know, the better you will feel.
  • Accept that some things are out of your control. Focus on what you can control, and your reaction to those that you cannot.