Living with cancer: 5 tips for facing things you can’t control

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I’m wired not to worry too much about something I cannot control.  For example, I automatically ignore any concerns about being inside an imaging device and then having to wait for the results to come through.  For me, I need to get the scan and I cannot control the results. The results will be what they will be, and I will react accordingly when I know them.  I once wrote an article called “Scanxiety, I just don’t get it“.  In hindsight, perhaps I was a bit harsh as not everyone is wired like me. 

However, perhaps presenting the reasons for my own way of handling these test and surveillance events might help others.  So based on my own experience, here are my 5 tips to face things you cannot control. 

5 tips for handling things you cannot control

1. Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it

I can totally understand why people worry about things in the future, even when they can’t control the situation.  For example, meeting an oncologist (or another specialist) to receive results can leave you lying awake wondering about all the ‘what ifs’, do I have growth, what will they do about it, whether I will survive, etc.  I think if you have people who depend on you, that can make those thoughts worse.  However, trying to work out what you will be told can actually make you ill as you become overly negative.  

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2. Think outside the box

I mentioned my own coping mechanisms above, they are based on cold clinical and life facts. But I was diagnosed in 2010 and have learned to build up my coping mechanism.  I guess some newcomers to their own cancer journey are still trying to work out what is happening to them.  if you can do it, try to turn surveillance (and therefore scanxiety) into a positive by imagining your situation if you were not getting a scan, not knowing what the results of that scan will be.

Close your eyes and think about that for a while. 

What would you feel like? What would you do?  Because that is what would happen if you did not get into that scan and then did not know the results of it.  Sure, you might hear bad news but at least you and your doctor can work together to see what could be done (ignoring or not knowing these results can exacerbate the problem, potentially shortening your life.  Conversely, you won’t know if it’s good news, your life is on hold and the anxiety remains. 

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3. Keep busy

When I was first diagnosed, I was working full-time in a busy and fast-paced environment, I was never bored.  I continued that lifestyle for 3 years during the initial diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance.  When I look back, I am certain that keeping busy helped me deal with stuff.  

When you worry about things constantly, it can manifest in physical changes.  According to WebMD, chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can have serious physical consequences, including (but not limited to), suppression of the immune system, digestive disorders, muscle tension, and short-term memory loss. 

One way to counteract that effect is to distract yourself with something requiring you to focus.  I find that walking, particularly in scenic or interesting places, helps me focus and relax.  Think about hobbies or activities you enjoy and go and do them. 

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4.  Peer contact

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It’s very difficult to tell someone to change their mindset and begin to think positively, particularly.  But receiving words of encouragement from close family and friends is clearly a good thing. Talking to others in the same situation, or who have gone through the same issues you are going through, is another source of encouragement. I see this day in and day out inside my online patient group.  These discussions can really help put things into perspective, but they can also provide comfort during a difficult time.  If you have been diagnosed with any type of Neuroendocrine Cancer, my patient group can be found here – or click on the green box below.

5. Worrying is pretty normal

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This tip sounds odd among the other four, but we all worry, it’s the extent of the worry and the inability to react in a defensive way that is the problem.  Some people find writing about their experience helpful, whether that is a personal diary, a blog, a question in the patient support group, or just picking up the phone to talk to someone you trust.  It all is said to be useful in coping with anxiety. 

For those who still find this suggestion really difficult, I have a blog post called 8 tips for conquering fear which may be helpful for some.  It contains video presentations from cancer counselors who are experienced in dealing with cancer patient anxiety.  

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor or any form of medical professional, practitioner or counsellor. None of the information on my website, or linked to my website(s), or conveyed by me on any social media or presentation, should be interpreted as medical advice given or advised by me.  Neither should any post or comment made by a follower or member of my private group be assumed to be medical advice, even if that person is a healthcare professional as they are not members of the private group or followers of my sites in any official capacity.  Please also note that mention of a clinical service, trial/study or therapy does not constitute an endorsement of that service, trial/study or therapy by Ronny Allan, the information is provided for education and awareness purposes and/or related to Ronny Allan’s own patient experience. This element of the disclaimer includes any complementary medicine, non-prescription over the counter drugs and supplements such as vitamins and minerals.

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