The word cancer drives me into an emotional state. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was doing my Post Graduation. The mental agony and the psychological stress that the whole family had undergone left us emotionally and physically exhausted.
I suffered the most as I was still young and extremely close to her and when she died it was like a spent relief that she ended her life on her own free will knowing fully well how much love and support she had received from my father and me.
The fact is, the cancer process is actually a series of challenges and obstacles that need to be surmounted in order to move on to, well, the next challenge. My mother was diagnosed wrongly by one of the best hospitals in Chennai and she underwent surgery to remove her uterus. After that was when the struggles started as her cancer only spread. She had to take a series of medications and then the chemo therapy regimens which left her weak in flesh, spirit and body. She lost her hair, her appetite and weighed only 25 kgs full of bones with little flesh. Even though she was a feisty woman, the long and arduous challenge of the disease proved mighty strenuous for her.
There were many a time in which treatments can be associated with changes in mood or mental functioning. An example is when someone is undergoing chemotherapy they tend to be loopy, or are talking gibberish. This does not happen all the time, but it may happen. Similar to this, is when some patients experience moodiness or are confused or unclear as to where they are. This may be the result of certain medications. These are called “iatrogenic effects” which is a fancy way of saying treatment-related effects. Many of these are temporary and eventually go away. They are not life threatening, but studies have shown that both patients and their families are often distressed with these effects. When my mom had these, there were many lonely hours I spent in inconsolable sobbing.
Looking back, I now feel that psychotherapy could have aided in a massive way in determining my mom’s adjustment to cancer and the family as a whole. With the advent of technology and modern medications, cancer is no more fatal or related to death. However, there is plenty that can be done psychologically to cope with the medical or psychological aspects of cancer with humanity, understanding, courage and dignity. Some of these are
- Training in relaxation, meditation or stress management
- Coping techniques
- Talk therapy
- Cancer education sessions
- Social support in a group setting
- Medications for depression or anxiety
As Babatunde Olatunji once said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
Reference: Psychological Aspects of Coping with Cancer by Regina Melchor-Beaupré, Psy.D., (http://cpancf.com/articles_files/PsychologicalCopingCancer.asp)