With the sad passing of Linda Bellingham this week we are reminded again of the heartache and destruction that cancer brings into people’s lives. Linda was remarkable in allowing us to get a glimpse of her cancer illness showing us her strength and determination to die with dignity. It feels as though she was trying not to let the disease affect her mental well-being. Terminal cancer is a painful, destructive disease for the victims and can bring emotional turmoil to the victim families. Clients have shared with me the psychological effects of cancer they face and I am touched at the strength and determination they portray.
Cancer affects us all one way or another
Cancer affects many families. I, myself, was 18 when I first became aware of cancer and sadly lost my Granddad to it. Since then it has appeared in many different form within my family and friends life. The word ‘cancer’ can bring up fears and speculation within people’s minds. Victims of cancer find themselves battling psychology with the word and mentally feel scared and bruised. Those who have survived cancer often live in fear that it will come back with a vengeance and those who have non-malignant tumours find themselves lucky but still fearful of the word. The psychological impact of cancer should not be underestimated.
Word ‘cancer’ brings confusion, panic and pity
I have found with many clients that even with cancers that don’t kill, for example basal cell carcinoma; it still changes their perspectives and outlooks in life. An example of this is Lisa. Although her GP had reassured her lump was a rodent ulcer and not melanoma, when she visited the dermatologist, he told her it was skin cancer. He blamed it on her abuse of sun use and said due to her young age it will come back. She left the room in a spin. Cancer had killed a close relative 2 years before and her Mother had just fought off breast cancer. She drove home feeling scared and unsure of her future. It felt like the word ‘cancer’ was slowly eating away her normal, rational thinking. The psychological impact of cancer was huge. It took another visit to another dermatologist to be reassured it was ok and not melanoma. It was malignant but it rarely metastasises. This was not how other people saw it. The word ‘cancer’ seemed to bring out various negative reactions. She felt people’s pity, people’s fear and that knowing look of relief it was not them. She suddenly got some undersing to what people with untreatable cancer suddenly were faced with. You hear of cancer patient asking for empathy towards the disease but here she was realising this is not always there.
Cancer turned her life. Through counselling she talked through her emotions and reactions. She realised that it was the word ‘cancer’ that was causing distress. Friends and family reaction treated it like a life sentence and it dawned on her how the word was affecting her psychology. She knew she had to remove herself from the word. She needed to look at as just an ulcer. She needed to accept it. Medical intervention was possible and would be successful. She would live. And that’s what she intended to do. She no longer wanted to be burdened with hatred towards people, she wanted to laugh, wanted to improve her parenting skills and more importantly she wanted to love herself and wear that love on her sleeve for others to share. The physiological impact of cancer touched in her in a positive way.
From other cancer clients that have touched my life, I know that the psychological impact of cancer remains a hard battle for them especially when they are in remission.
Psychological support for cancer patients is paramount. It is needed both in the medical profession and within our social groups. Cancer patients need our love and empathy. Support and help for skin cancer patients can be found at Skin cancer support .p
If you have been affected by cancer and feel counselling will help you then you can contact Hazel in Sheffield on 07814 363855 or contact her via email for online counselling.