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Coping With Your Feelings About Cancer

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is devastating no matter what the stage, but being told that you have advanced-stage cancer might make you feel like giving up. You're going to experience a wide range of feelings -- some you may have dealt with already, and some that may be new to you. We're here to help you cope with these feelings. We'll discuss the most common ones and offer tips to help you get a handle on them.


Sadness and Grief

First of all, you need to know that anything you may be feeling is completely normal. You are grieving the change in your health, as well as the uncertainty that you now have to live with on a daily basis. Feeling sad, upset, and angry is normal and expected.
What you need to watch out for, however, is when the sadness turns into depression. Being sad and being depressed are not the same thing. Approximately one in four people with cancer develops clinical depression. This can make treatment difficult, as they do not have the energy or desire to do much and have trouble making decisions. If you think you or a loved one is dealing with depression, talk to your doctor as soon as possible, as this is not something you have to live with (see Symptoms of Depression to learn more).

Anxiety, Fear, and Worry

Anxiety is not only understandable when dealing with advanced-stage cancer, it's expected. Questions that may be racing through your mind right now include:
  • Have I done everything I can to treat my cancer?
  • Can I handle any more treatment -- physically and/or financially?
  • Am I going to die soon?
  • What will happen to my family when I'm gone?
  • How much pain and suffering will there be?
  • Am I a burden to my family?
The key, however, is to not let this worry consume your life. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, or ask him or her to recommend a licensed mental health professional. These people are specially trained to help you (and your family) deal with these and any other concerns you may have.
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