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Cancer Anxiety? Survivor Says Talk to a Therapist

Survivor shares that there is no shame to talk to a therapist about lifeís difficulties, especially when those difficulties have included coping with a cancer diagnosis and the ongoing fear of recurrence.
PUBLISHED August 31, 2017
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
The nursing staff at the medical clinic where I go once told me that over half the people at the doctor’s office on any given day are on a medication for mental health. Wow. Suddenly, I felt less alone with my own bundle of fear, worry and anxiety.

I wondered how many of the people at the clinic on any given day are also cancer survivors. As a breast cancer and melanoma survivor, I saw a talk therapist through my cancer treatments and beyond. I continue to see her and I would like to share the amazing benefits with you.

Do you want to vent in a safe place? Have a good cry without fear of harsh judgment? An oncology talk therapist can be good listener, someone who can provide that safe place to process some of the feelings that go with a cancer diagnosis, and much more than that.

Talk therapy can be objective and supportive. It helped me to hear that it is normal to be upset by abnormal circumstances (cancer). My therapist helped me sort out what is what—the emotions from the hormone changes from chemotherapy, the sleep difficulties and more. Objective suggestions were often more helpful than a family/friend hug and another, "Oh, poor Barb."

There were things I needed to hear that family and friends might not say to me. I could ask questions about what was “normal” for others also going through cancer. I felt less alone with my diagnosis when I could bounce my feelings off someone who helps other people just like me. My therapist also helped me reframe my thoughts and tweak some of the nasty things I was telling myself.  

I needed more tools to cope with the cancer and life curve balls coming my way. My talk therapist gave me more tools for coping with cancer and with life. I read books I might not have found on my own. I learned how to focus on my senses to slow down my worry brain. I learned breathing and visualization exercises. I relearned meditation. I worked on how to change my focus when I felt upset. I learned techniques to comfort myself when cancer fear felt overwhelming. I improved my journaling, and much more.

Having someone to process the intense emotions with me helped the emotions from coming out sideways. I could slow down. I could pull a tool out of my growing emotional toolbox rather than flopping around and possibly hurting someone close to me. Sadly, I won’t say that never happened, but I will say, because of my talk therapist, it probably happened less.

I was lucky to find a good fit with my therapist right away, but do not be afraid to switch to a different therapist if you don’t click with the first therapist. Therapy ideally is a good fit. I was fortunate.

Life will happen—to all of us. It may be a disease, like cancer, death in the family, job loss, accident, divorce or many other tragedies that happen to us or close to us. A talk therapist can be an excellent resource to help us cope with these life events. Why bother? My honest truth: A therapist helps with the emotional processing, which is better than having those intense feelings come out sideways at the people we love.
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