Dealing with your emotions

Blackberries

Cancer can cause a flood of emotions for you and your loved ones. And your feelings may change often, and without warning.

What do you feel?

When you have cancer, it's common to go through any or all of these feelings:

  • anger, fear, or worry
  • not believing that you have cancer
  • feeling out of control or unable to care for yourself
  • sadness, guilt, or loneliness
  • no hope for the future

There's no one way to feel about cancer — or to respond to those feelings — but here are some strategies that can help you cope.

Explore your feelings

Woman meditatingUse mind-body practices — such as guided imagery, meditation, and breathing techniques — to relieve stress, anxiety, and pain, and help you feel better.

Try to maintain a sense of optimism. It's normal to feel down sometimes, but a positive attitude can help you cope. If you're struggling to find the positive, talk to your care team about whether you may have depression.

Explore the benefits of faith and prayer in the healing process. Many people rely on their spiritual or religious beliefs to help them manage illness. 

Get support

Sharing your feelings with others can help lower your stress level. If you don't want to talk to someone, writing down your fears may also help you feel better.

Woman using a tabletTalk with loved ones. A serious illness can either strain or strengthen a relationship. Learn tips for talking about cancer.

Ask for help. You may find it hard to deal with your medical care and decisions and accomplish daily tasks, like shopping, bills, and household chores. Let your family, friends, church or synagogue, and community groups know how they can help you.

Connect with others who understand what you are going through. Find classes and support groups or explore an online community for people who have cancer.

Talk to a counselor if you need help coping with your feelings. Counseling is available through our Mental Health, Behavioral Health, or Psychiatry departments. Search for services in your area.

Enjoy your favorite things

When you feel up for it, make time for pleasurable activities — especially those you have liked doing in the past.

Take care of yourself

You may feel more optimistic when you're getting enough sleep and light exercise, when you're up for it.

  • If you're having trouble sleeping, find out what you can do to relieve your sleep problems.
  • Try walking, when you're up for it. Studies suggest that people who stay active during cancer treatment may respond better to treatment, reduce the risk of the cancer recurring, and live longer. 

What if cancer recurs?

Sometimes cancer continues to grow or spreads to other organs, even though you're receiving treatment. At some point, you may need to make a decision about whether to continue to try to cure the cancer. Get help deciding if you should continue treatment.

Reviewed by: Michael Russin, MD, February 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2016 Kaiser Permanente

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