If you only believe what you see on social media, you would probably classify cancer patients into two main groups, warriors or worriers. I guess people have, or adopt, these traits from their cancer experience but I suspect many people are simply ‘wired’ that way. I also believe there are many people who have a bit of both, perhaps slanting to mostly warrior or worrier, I mean who doesn’t worry about a single thing? However, the extent of worrying can often have a negative effect on quality of life. You’re not going to stop worrying by simply reading this article but if you read no further, at least check out the lead graphic, it might help putting things into perspective.
I used to do that for a living so I guess I’m an automatic fit, right? Believe it or not, professional ‘warriors’ also worry about stuff but they don’t like showing it (one of the reasons there are serious PTSD issues happening currently).
Despite the protests at the use of ‘war’ metaphors, many cancer patients do see themselves as ‘warriors’. People probably label me as one but …… spoiler alert, behind my positive exuding exterior, there’s a man worried about a problem which might decrease quality of life and also a man worried about potential surgery most likely needed to correct the issue. We all worry but it’s the way we handle stress that is important. Not talking about it is never a good option.
I also think ‘Warriors’ can sometimes be complacent and for a cancer patient, this can be detrimental to their health. In a previous life, nothing was going to stop me getting on with life, nothing was going to stop me going to work, nothing was going to stop me completing my mission. One day, some of my co-workers complained about my constant sneezing, coughing and sniffing. I told them the only way I was leaving the building would be on a stretcher having lost consciousness or in a body bag. I said it whilst I continued typing up a report which was my mission for that day. I said it without any hint of joviality in order they knew that I was deadly serious. Little did I know that my ‘poker face’ was just about to become seriously deadly.
We’ve all read the blogs and memes on Facebook…. ‘kicking cancer’s ass‘, etc etc. There’s even twitter handles, Facebook sites, blog names all with the word ‘warrior’ in the title. Nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with having a positive attitude. The only thing potentially wrong with that, is becoming too complacent about the danger of cancer. Cancer will kill you whether you are a ‘warrior’ or a ‘worrier’.
I come into contact with a lot of Neuroendocrine Cancer patients, either from a thread in my group, my blog site or my Facebook site(s). I get a substantial amount of private messages from patients including on twitter. Many of them are from people who are ‘worried’ – these can often be the toughest conversations I have.
People have many different reasons for worrying, and there can be totally different factors involved at diagnosis than those surfacing during and after treatment. We worry about a diagnosis and what it actually means, we worry about the treatment we are given, and then we worry about the cancer coming back, this is all very natural. Some people have taken a considerable amount of time to get a diagnosis and their stress levels are already high. Some are young with a long life ahead of them, that is really tough. Some have young children and are worried about their future as well as their own including genetic aspects, that is also really tough. There are many other scenarios adding further layers of complexity to an individual’s situation.
I have no magic answer for someone who is constantly worried except to say that they must do something about it as it’s not a good place to be. I once dabbled in this area by writing an article with 8 tips for conquering fear, this was specifically aimed at my own cancer type but I guess it could apply to many others.
Many cancers are not as ‘black and white’ as a lot of people think, i.e. you are diagnosed, it is treated, you are observed, you are cured. Neuroendocrine Cancer is quite definitely a ‘grey’ cancer, i.e. many people take some time to be diagnosed, many are diagnosed at the incurable stage, the treatment regimes differ depending on the primary, stage, grade and many other factors, you are observed for much longer periods than the average cancer patient, perhaps for life, and for many, there is no cure.
For those with incurable conditions, the stress levels can be higher and for longer, potentially leading to other illnesses. The psychological impact of long-term cancer is a developing but as yet unmet need in the Neuroendocrine world and I suspect elsewhere.
Don’t forget the carers and caregivers. I think a lot of carers/caregivers can also be under some stress and worry, I certainly see this a lot in the Neuroendocrine community.
I think there’s a fine line between being a ‘warrior’ or a ‘worrier’ and I believe many people flit between the two quite easily, having accepted their diagnosis, decided it was just another chronic illness and try to live life as best they can. Cancer can be a very individual disease, not just the different types and sub-types, but also stages, grades, pre-existing medical issues, age, gender. To add to the mix, I think it’s also true to say that how people handle the stress, how people cope is another dimension to be considered.
For those who are predominately ‘warriors’, please don’t forget to look after yourself. For those who are predominantly ‘worriers’, the lead graphic might help put things into perspective.
Take care all
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