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Blog: Coping with Cancer

coping with cancer

By Yvonne Hignell, Director of Care and Support Services

4 February 2017 is World Cancer Day, when organisations around the globe work to increase awareness of a disease that impacts millions.

Cancer has an impact on all four main aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing – financial, physical, mental and social – but there are ways you can manage this.

Financial health

Being unable to work for a long period of time may result in a drop in income at the same time as increased expenses such as heating, transport to and from hospital, and medical costs.

Assessing your finances can help you plan ahead to make sure you can meet your outgoings. We have some useful budgeting advice and a budgeting tool on our website to help you with this.

Speak to your HR Department or manager to find out what support your company can give you, such as flexible working. You may also qualify for statutory sick pay. You can find out more about cancer and the workplace here.

Additionally, you may be able to claim state benefits. To find out what is available, read our brochure on benefits for the seriously ill, disabled and carers and you can use a benefits calculator.

Mental health

Discovering you have cancer is a shock and is likely to be a scary and upsetting experience, so it’s important to allow yourself to experience these feelings.

  • Cry if you need to
  • If you feel angry, find a safe way to express this. This could be something as simple as using a stress relief toy, hitting a pillow, exercising (if you are able to), listening to music or writing down your emotions.
  • Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness can help to give your mind a break when you’re feeling stressed or worried. You can find out more about these in our mental health advice blog.
  • Although talking about your feelings can be hard, it can help to find someone you trust to confide in. Just explaining how you feel can feel like a weight has been lifted.
  • Some people find that talking to other people in a similar position also helps. You can find out more about Macmillan’s support groups, join Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Chat online forum or look for other cancer support and information organisations.
  • If you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, you can call Ben’s free and confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or if you’re not ready to talk, you can use our online chat at ben.org.uk.

You may find that feelings of uncertainty continue after treatment or that it’s only then that the diagnosis finally hits you. For more advice on your feelings after treatment, visit Macmillan Cancer Support.

If you discover you have advanced or terminal cancer, this will understandably be distressing. You can find advice on coping with this through Cancer Research UK.

Physical health

Cancer affects everyone differently, and the side effects that you experience will depend on the type you have and the treatment you receive.

You can find out more information through:

It’s also important to look after yourself physically – eat a balanced diet to keep your energy levels up and try to get enough sleep. If you are able, try to do some exercise, even if it’s just a short walk around the block.

Social health

Having a long-term illness like cancer will affect the way that you interact with your friends and family. However, you can find ways to keep your social life.

  • Keep activities short and try not to cram in too much
  • Give yourself a rest period before going out to conserve your energy
  • If your treatment makes you feel ill, ask your GP about anti-sickness medication
  • Suggest doing quieter activities with your friends, such as staying at home with a movie
  • If you have a big event coming up, such as a friend’s wedding, see if you can arrange treatments so that you have that week off.

Some people also find that tiredness lasts for a while after treatment, as it takes time for their strength to recover. Try to build up your strength and stamina gradually, set yourself small goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.

Another effect of cancer can be a loss of confidence, particularly as a result of physical changes such as hair loss, surgery scars and weight loss or gain.

  • Be gentle with yourself
  • Try to spend time with people who are supportive
  • Boost your confidence by doing activities you are good at and that make you feel happy
  • Look after your mental and physical health and wellbeing, for example by ensuring you get enough sleep
  • Practice self-care by doing things that make you feel relaxed and happy, such as:
    • Having a relaxing bath
    • Going for a walk in the park
    • Getting coffee with a friend
    • Reading your favourite book

Sometimes it’s other people’s reactions to physical changes that can lower your self-esteem and make you feel uncomfortable. Macmillan Cancer Support has some useful advice on managing other people’s reactions.

We’re here

Ben exists to give support for life to the people of the UK’s automotive industry and their families. If you’re worried or feel that you can’t cope, we’re here to help. You can call our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat, Monday to Friday 8am-8pm.

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