Psychologist Bona Colaco has been talking to people who face anxiety and related issues for over a decade now. Over this time, she has observed that many families in India prefer not to talk about the cancer diagnosis of a loved one. She explains why it is helpful and important to talk about your cancer.
Cancer is still a taboo topic at social events, and probably as a consequence of this, there is insufficient information and empathy available to those diagnosed with the disease.
Not everyone may find it easy to talk about their cancer. It is best to wait until the patient or the survivor is ready to speak about their cancer. There are patients who complete their cancer treatment without having to share it with their friends or colleagues.
However, this is not the case with everyone. For many patients, the anxiety and stress brought on by the diagnosis require them to speak with others to be able to garner support and empathy which are vital for their own emotional well-being.
Benefits of talking
Let us briefly examine the benefits of talking about your cancer. Apart from breaking the news that you have cancer, talking about how you feel about it, and the multitude of emotions that you encounter during the course of your treatment might help in the following ways.
- Processing your feelings: Talking to someone helps you understand your own reactions to the diagnosis and treatment. Talking also works as an analysis of why you feel that way and how you can feel better. An honest and open conversation around negative emotions like anger, regret, and disappointment can initiate the process of overcoming these emotions.
- Finding solutions: When you speak with your friends and family about your cancer, you allow them an opportunity to offer help and support. Everyday problems like needing a ride to the hospital or requiring help with grocery shopping, may find ready solutions when you choose to speak about them with others.
- Sharing information: Talking also opens up channels to find practical solutions to problems like the side-effects of cancer treatment. Exchange of tips to combat these side-effects and sharing what worked for others might give you more options to try out.
- Moving past cancer: Sometimes you have to address the elephant in the room and have a conversation about your cancer before you can have meaningful conversations about other topics of interest. Having shared about your latest hospital visit or an upcoming scan, you can comfortably move on to talking about matters unrelated to cancer.
Choose your forum
If you feel the need to talk about your cancer, you can choose one of several forums open to you. Based on your comfort level, each forum can help you in a different way.
- Family and friends: This is the go-to option for most people. You may find that some friends or family members respond better than others. Regular communication will also help strengthen your bond with them.
- Support groups: Joining cancer support groups like Talk Your Heart Out gives you access to others who are also experiencing cancer. This becomes a safe space to share your feelings as the others are likely to be facing similar situations and therefore, will understand you better.
- Online communities: There are communities on social media that allow you to have conversations around cancer without leaving the comfort of your home. This also provides you with the option of doing so anonymously, if you so wish.
- Therapists: Seeking the help of a trained therapist gives you the opportunity to share confidentially and receive expert advice on dealing with difficult emotions and situations.
Talking without words
If you don’t feel like talking, there are other ways of communication to help you. You could begin by watching a movie around cancer. You can also read both fiction and non-fiction books around cancer. These will help you further your conversation on cancer without saying a word.
Some people prefer to keep a journal or a notepad to write their feelings down. Others choose to use art like painting or music as an outlet for their emotions. Others prefer to distract themselves with work or household chores as they do not feel the need to share their feelings. You will have to see what works for you, as you are the best judge of that. However, knowing what your options are and who you can turn to if you need help is important.
If you find yourself feeling unhappy all the time, or if you feel the need to isolate yourself, it is important that you reach out to someone even if you don’t feel like doing so. In such cases, please contact a friend, family member, or therapist at the earliest.
If you would like to talk to us about your cancer, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.