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.
A 10-year breast cancer, and six-year melanoma survivor reassures other survivors that they are not alone if they are struggling with anxiety, depression or PTSD years after their cancer treatments have ended.
After 10 years of coping with cancer, I am grateful to be here and yet, I am still anxious. Some of us have and/or are able to cultivate more resilience than other cancer survivors. Anxiety or not, I am still here. In truth, at the time of diagnosis, I did not think I would still be here. It wasn't that I had a terribly awful breast cancer. It was just how I felt about my diagnosis.
I was shocked and scared when I learned I had breast cancer. Ten years later, I am no longer shocked and am significantly less scared, but I still have moments where I struggle with anxiety and PTSD. How do I cope? I try to cope honestly and I try to help other cancer survivors with my stories and experiences. Reaching out has been, and continues to be, a great opportunity.
Sharing with fellow cancer survivors helps each of us to manage our cancer-related stress. We can share our experiences, our knowledge, and offer our emotional understanding and support to each other. For many of us, the chance of an old cancer returning or a related cancer popping up never goes away. But, we get to learn how to live, and cope, with it. Do not give up or be dismayed. Do connect with fellow long-term survivors - others who understand the anxiety you continue to experience.
Tell your doctors about your ongoing anxiety and be sure to explain your fears and anxiety to your loved ones. Do not give up on seeking help for long-term cancer anxiety. Resources and medications are available, but not if you suffer in silence. Cancer takes a huge emotional toll. There is no shame in needing medication for anxiety, depression, or PTSD long after active cancer treatment has ended.
You are not alone with your struggles. The science of addressing long-term cancer anxiety is in the process of catching up with the good news that many cancer survivors now live longer. Take comfort in stories of survivors who are years, or decades, out from their cancer diagnosis and treatment. The further out from cancer diagnosis, the better I feel about my cancers and ongoing monitoring for recurrences. I attribute my cancer emotional improvement to my faith, my willingness to admit when I need help, and the long-term gradual passage of time from my initial diagnosis.
When a potential cancer-related health worry crops up, do not delay and let it fester in your mind. Instead, get the appointment, exam, or test on the calendar so you can get back to your normally scheduled life. Do not worry alone - have a few people you can confide in about your fears. Consider an in-person or an online support group. Remember to go back to the coping tools that have worked for you in the past. You are allowed to take care of yourself.
Keep hope. If you are reading this, you are still here and you are working to manage cancer stress and anxiety. I have a huge "worry brain," and I have tools, including medication, meditation, healthy movement, and connecting with others to work my way through long-term anxiety and stress. Above all, please know and take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone. Cancer survivors are here at CureToday.com for each other. You will get through this too.