Pushing Past Cancer-Related Anxiety

Kim Johnson

There are many emotions that come from having cancer in your life. For me, the worst was the anxiety. While everybody experiences this emotion on some level, the kind that comes from cancer is a vastly different variety. It is a constant feeling that is not only an emotion but also a physical manifestation when things were at their worst.

The anxiety I felt caused stomach aches, fevers, nausea and headaches. It was a leave-you-breathless kind of anxiety that others may not be able to understand. It is hard to find a way to cope with this kind of anxiety, because in the end, it feels like the only thing that will fix it is for cancer to go away.

At its core, anxiety begins in the mind, and I am somebody who struggled with anxiety before cancer. So, with cancer and all the unknowns that it brought to my life, my anxiety got exponentially worse. I began to think so much that I rarely slept. My brain was on a constant cycle of thinking and I was unable to shut down to provide a sense of peace for sleep. This cost me dearly, and a state of exhaustion and sleep deprivation became a constant in the three years that my sister had cancer.

As my sister's caregiver and the one charged with her medical choices, the thought of making wrong choices weighed heavily on me. I am a perfectionist and when I felt like I wasn't getting it right, a lot of anxiety followed. I was devastating to feel like the choices I was making weren't good enough, especially when life hangs in the balance.

When something would go wrong, I would be left heartbroken. It perpetuated this cycle of helplessness that I wasn't quite sure how to end. Now, I can see that I needed to focus on what I could control and do my best and try to let go of the rest. In spite of the desire for cancer to go away, it just doesn't work like that.

You do need to find ways to cope that work for you. Cancer can sometimes be a quick process, but more often than not it is long and involved. It requires stamina and a certain mental strength to endure. For me, it took a long time to find anything that worked, and even when something did work, it did not work for long.

The only thing that provided any consistent relief through cancer was finding an escape into nature. Sometimes that meant a long walk around the hospital campus to get out of my own head and process through the long days. When my sister was home, that meant long hikes with my twin and our dog to get away from it all.

It can be exhausting trying to work through a list of solutions and suggestions, but I personally can vouch that it is more than worth it. Because even if something works only once, it is better than not trying and having nothing work at all.
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