Who Me? Feeling Overwhelmed?

Cancer affects each of us with a range of feelings and emotions that may change daily, hourly, and even from minute to minute. I am usually an “in control” person who needs to be in charge. This suddenly changed when I received the unexpected diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. My emotions ranged from disbelief, anger, fear, panic, and frustration.

How could this be happening? Would I live to see my beautiful granddaughter grow into a young lady? Would I lose my hair and experience the severe side effects of chemotherapy that I had witnessed with my mother?

The loss of control

This loss of control was affecting all my thoughts and feelings. I was the nurse of the family who was expected to care for everyone. To add to this overwhelming feeling of loss of control, I was told that I had cancer, but we would “watch and wait” before treatment! I could not wrap my head around such a recommendation. Later, as I read everything about this cancer, I learned that this approach was the standard of care based on scientific research.

While feeling overwhelmed, I became very “closed mouth” about my illness. My usual practice of openly sharing information ceased. Fortunately, due to my loving family, physician, and friends, I began to cope more effectively. I expressed my feelings and began to focus on the things that I could control.

Finding ways to relax

Learning about my cancer, the latest research and new therapies made me feel more in control. My oncologist answered my myriad of questions and I began to feel less overwhelmed. I decided to choose when and to whom I would talk about my illness. Finding ways to help myself relax lessened my anxiety.

Meditation, guided imagery, and relaxation exercises were most helpful. Distraction by “getting out of the house” and doing something can help you focus on things besides cancer. Look for things that you enjoy. Look at what you can control, be involved in your healthcare, keep appointments, try to set up a daily schedule.

Try to hope. Look for reasons to have hope and write them down. I journal daily and include my hopes, fears, and plans for the day. This activity helps me stay positive. When faced with a difficult decision, I list the pro and cons. Find a source of spiritual support. For me, prayers are most comforting.

Consider what comforted you through rough times before cancer, they are likely to comfort you now. Faith, family, and friends have helped me feel in control as I deal with my cancer and I am no longer overwhelmed.

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