Changes in Emotional Health After Diagnosis
Prior to my current diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer with extensive bone metastasis, Stage IV, I was a completely different person emotionally. Very rarely did anything bring me down emotionally, and I never ever cried. There are times now that I do not like the person I have become from an emotional standpoint.
Coaching and teaching for over thirty-plus years, I had grown a fairly tough skin. Rarely did problems or situations have much effect on me emotionally or otherwise. Constant stress had trained my mind and body to withstand most of what life had to throw at me. And take my word for it, teaching and coaching can put one in some extremely stressful predicaments.
It is my belief that this training ground proved vital for my ability to battle cancer. Cancer can test the best of us with daily emotional exams. During my initial treatment, and since, I find myself running the full spectrum of emotions daily. From smiling and happy one moment, to sadness and tears the next.
These many emotional outbursts were completely the opposite of my mental makeup prior to being diagnosed. I know full well these episodes are very tough for my family, friends, and loved ones to handle. Those closest to me know deep down inside this is not Duane, nor has it ever been Duane.
We have to train ourselves methods to deal with these new-found emotions. After three and a half years, I am still not sure I have any answers when it comes to the emotional stress and strain. The many prescription medications and procedures can within themselves prove too much for any one person to bear.
Trying to come to terms
The simple phrase, “You have terminal cancer” can prove difficult for a person to process. It took me months to fully come to grips with this concept. My mental and emotional state were put to the test, and I am still not sure I have ever passed this particular exam. How does one ever process fully contemplating the end of one’s existence?
One method I utilize is to remain as busy as humanly possible under the circumstances. I try to not ever let my mind be idle, because this is when those thoughts creep deep into the soul and stir up a well of emotions. Keeping yourself busy with anything and everything that keeps you from venturing into this deep dark territory can be helpful, I believe.
I was already an avid reader, but I made sure to increase my reading. Reading is a great escape and if you chose the right books, you can escape the present. You might even find vital information or techniques that will aid you in handling and processing the current situation. At least, that is my personal opinion.
Hobbies suddenly become extremely important in life. I love to work on genealogy. While I dig deep into the past, my mind does not have time to be concerned with all the problems cancer brings about. Sometimes I become elated with the discoveries I make about my ancestors, and sometimes the details even sadden me. However, it is a different sadness than the type that I feel when I am sitting worrying about cancer.
Hunting, if one is still physically able, can provide a challenging release from the day-to-day concerns of cancer. The end result of hunting used to be the main release for me with this event, however, just the physical presence in the situation seems to bring the most enjoyment. In fact, many times even if I see my prey, I will not harvest. I have found a new respect for life and just how hard it is just to stay alive.
A world of difference
One very simple action, such as humming, can make a world of difference to me personally. Humming helps me take my mind off my situation or my current pain. I find myself doing it with great frequency, especially during bouts of pain and anxiety.
This does, however I must admit, annoy some members of my family. My mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, always injects, “Why are you humming?” And even after a thorough explanation, she still will ask me the same question over and over if I resume humming. It is important to remember that those who do not suffer the difficulties of cancer may not understand our pain and sorrows. How could they?
Controlling my emotions
These are just a few simple things that work for me when it comes to controlling my emotions and my tolerance for pain. A few may work for you, and they may not. After all, this is my experience and may not transfer to your experiences. I am simply offering my humble opinion and some simple techniques I find soothing.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?