According to the statistics, more than 14 million people are living with cancer today in the United States. Something like 39 percent of all men and women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call “cancer,” on the whole, an epidemic.
Every day we’re flooded with “awareness” messages and celebrity pleas for donations to this cancer group or the other. But will there ever be a cure? And how do victims, and families, cope with the stress that comes with the realization of a cancer diagnosis?
First, let’s discuss the possibilities of a cure. For any organization to state, emphatically, that they’re working on a cure for “cancer” is a bit misleading. Cancer comes in many forms. Every research group must focus its attention on one specific type to formulate treatment and potential cures. And research is expensive.
There are countless organizations dedicated to raising funds for research but, unfortunately, that’s probably all it will be. Without sounding like the dark heart in the room, cancer is a huge cash cow to research labs and big pharma. There’s far more money in treating the disease than there ever would be in a cure. It might sound cynical, but it would be naive to think there wasn’t some of that kind of thinking at play here.
But what of those who are already affected, how are patients coping with it? Each stage of the journey through cancer care brings about its own set of emotional responses. Granted, a great deal of the initial response depends on how serious the cancer is — not that there is a kind that isn’t. A good prognosis will make the impact a bit less difficult to handle.
Most patients are angry at first, experiencing a level of, “why me?” There’s some denial, more anger, and finally acceptance in some fashion. Dealing with that emotional roller coaster can be incredibly difficult for people, not just the patient but family and friends as well.
What we are told to do by the experts is to look for ways to cope with it in our own way. They first suggest you try to learn as much as you can about the diagnosis, what type of cancer it is and how it is treated. But be aware it might seem frightening because the information is often provided out of context for the individual situation.
It’s also suggested that you express your feelings about it. Too many times we try to put on a brave face for family or friends and never really let it all out. It’s not only healthy, emotionally, to exercise those feelings, it can help the healing process.
Taking care of yourself through proper diet, exercise, maintaining your regular routines as much as possible can also help. As human beings, we need normality to function. Try to keep as much of it in your day-to-day life as possible as you move through your treatment.
Participating in support groups and talking with others who have shared your experience can be beneficial as well. There’s nothing more frightening than the unknown. When someone shares their experience with you, and knowledge can help ease fear.
We’re also directed to do our best to focus on what we can control in the situation, rather than worrying about what we can’t. Worrying only wastes energy and creates its own stress.
I recently met a woman who, during her treatment for breast cancer, was a professional artist who painted stones from the hospital parking lot. Each stone represented how she felt after each treatment, all 33 of them. She made a full recovery but insists the practice helped her focus and have something within her control that also allowed her to deal with her feelings.
No one can say how they’d react to a cancer diagnosis. But, knowing you’re not alone can really help. If you or someone you know is dealing with cancer, no matter what the prognosis, be as positive as you can, and don’t miss out on a minute of life in the process.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer in Greene County. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communication, Ltd. More at www.deerinheadlines.com