Written by SMH Oncology Clinical Counselor Elizabeth Bornstein
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. For each of those patients — and their loved ones — getting the cancer diagnosis will be life-changing.
Regardless of the type of cancer or treatment, every cancer journey is a rollercoaster, physically and emotionally. Nearly all patients go through feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and depression, frustration, hopelessness and fear of recurrence.
But patients can learn to cope with cancer.
The goal may always remission or cure; however, patients and loved ones fare best when they find a way to live well in the day-to-day of the journey, en route to the destination.
And that’s what oncology counselors like me are here for: to talk patients and loved ones through the ups and downs, to identify solutions and to work collaboratively with the medical care team, so the patient is not carrying the burden on their own, all the while trying to heal.
For many, talking about issues like self-esteem, body image and sexuality, financial matters, or grief and fear of death feels too personal or uncomfortable. But something we hope all those managing cancer will embrace is the knowledge that practicing emotional and physical self-care promotes emotional and physical healing.
Healing is a process afforded to everyone, whether or not remission or cure is possible.
Support On the Cancer Journey
At Sarasota Memorial's Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute, our cancer support and survivorship wellness services — from counseling to mind-body wellness classes, physical therapy and support groups — are unified under the Thrive Oncology Program, with dedicated services for patients in active treatment and survivor services following treatment.
Many of Sarasota Memorial’s peer-to-peer support and education groups (for cancer patients, cancer survivors and their loved ones) are now meeting online. Call 941-917-7827 for details on our Thrive Integrated Cancer Care Program services, and click here for the calendar of events, classes and meetings that are now available online.
The Cancer Institute’s Oncology Counseling Program also provides cancer patients and loved ones with help with emotional support and coping strategies, as well as help with problem-solving and identifying cancer-specific resources in our community and beyond. To connect with the team, call 941-917-7293.
Learning to Live Well with Cancer
If you’re navigating your own cancer journey, consider these suggestions for effectively coping with the disease.
- Practice a daily self-care routine that includes good nutrition and hydration, adequate sleep, exercise (if OK with your healthcare team), mindfulness, relaxation and stress reduction.
- Communicate openly with your healthcare team. Keep a symptom log and take it, along with your questions, to your appointments.
- Make time to share your feelings and needs with loved ones, coworkers and spiritual advisors. Set aside time, so you don’t have to talk about cancer all the time.
- Connect with others who have had a similar experience for support and inspiration.
- Find a licensed counselor who is knowledgeable about cancer issues and the mind-body connection and is someone you trust to help you.
- Participate in cancer support and wellness programs to increase energy and decrease stress.
- Ask your healthcare team and counselor about medications that can ease anxiety and depression, if needed.
It’s understandable that someone managing cancer might become immobilized by its heaviness and easily lose sight of the “CAN” in “cancer.” But with the right support and resources, people CAN and DO live well with cancer.
A licensed, oncology and advanced palliative- and hospice-certified clinical social worker, Elizabeth Bornstein, MSSA, LCSW, OSW-C, APHSW-C, oversees and provides oncology counseling at Sarasota Memorial’s Cancer Institute. She has advanced training in mind-body medicine and expressive arts, and has facilitated oncology counseling for nearly two decades.