Keeping communication lines open with close family and friends rather than keeping it under wraps, and joining self-help cancer support groups are among the most effective strategies to cope with cancer, says Apollo Cancer Hospital head & neck cancer surgeon Dr Umanath Nayak.
Sitting and discussing one’s fears with others with similar apprehensions can give one the feeling that one is not alone. It is similar to the difference between walking alone on a dark street at 2 am and walking on the same street with 20 others, he added while delivering the 243rd Monthly Health Lecture of the Public Garden Walkers’ Association on ‘Coping with Cancer - way to deal and live with it’ on Sunday at Public Gardens to morning walkers and general public.
A cancer patient needs to develop strategies for coping right from the time of the diagnosis and treatment until much later, and throughout life. While the initial emotions of fear, anger, shock and disbelief give way to resignation and acceptance, the rigours and side-effects of the treatment process leave very little time and energy for introspection.
This is also the time when the patient or caregiver should utilise his extra time and resources to understand and maximise his knowledge of the disease process, the treatment options and results of treatment. This can be achieved either through consultations with doctors, or through knowledgeable family and friends, books and the Internet. Such activity can provide the patient with a useful distraction from the anxiety associated with the disease and also help him play an active role in decision-making when discussing treatment options.
He cited the example of Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France champion, who after being diagnosed with and cured of cancer, realised that the best coping strategy to get himself back on track was to put all his efforts into winning the Tour de France once again as a cancer survivor, and he ultimately succeeded in doing so. “All of us may not be in a physical and mental shape to do what he did, but there will always be something to do or achieve that can take away the focus from the disease. Randy Pausch, when diagnosed with incurable cancer, decided to put all his life experiences into a final lecture, The Last Lecture - his ‘swan song’ before an august audience at his alma mater. He hoped that this lecture, which was video-recorded, would also serve to help his three children, then young, to glimpse who and what he was once they grew up and wanted to know about their father.” he added. Spirituality can also be of major value in dealing with incurable cancer, and introspection into the meaning of one’s existence can provide an oasis of calm for the troubled mind and help deal with the pain and suffering.
Spirituality can lead to a state of transcendence, he added while stating that it is a useful strategy for coping.