Cancer- the name itself brings with it a host of emotions. Right from the diagnosis through the treatment, it is a journey of reviewing the life you led as well as thinking about how you would like it to be. Cancer in India is significant and growing. While the physical symptoms of cancer are addressed and dealt effectively with medical treatment, the emotional impact of the disease may not always be recognized or dealt with.

Patients and caregivers are often ill equipped to deal with the changes brought about by the illness. Counselling helps them recognize and deal more effectively with the changes within their body and the lifestyle changes that come with them. In addition to physical changes, cancer affects so many aspects of a person’s life including their relationships and their ability to work and pursue their hobbies. Patients are faced with intense emotions when diagnosed. It is common to experience:

It also comes with a set of positives as people with cancer diagnosis experience awareness and an appreciation of the functionality of their bodies. They also tend to have a more positive attitude and outlook to life, which they recognize is special. They experience a deep sense of gratitude for everything, clarity about the things that matter (priorities) and the meaning of life.

Most Psycho-oncology and psychosocial interventions in cancer care are primarily concerned with understanding and treating the social, psychological, emotional, spiritual, quality-of-life and functional aspects of a cancer patient -right from prevention through bereavement.  The psychological responses experienced by the patient and their families are addressed in counselling. It is a whole person approach that deals with improving the quality of life for those affected by the disease.

Research demonstrates that psychosocial and emotional distress, which is often experienced in the form of depression or other adjustment difficulties, is a significant problem for up to half of all cancer patients (Carlson and Bultz, 2002; 2003; 2004). 

The Role of Counselling

Counselling involves talking to a trained person and exploring problems or issues in a safe and supportive environment. It is designed to help people respond to challenges and the associated emotions in healthy ways.

Counselors cannot always solve problems, but they provide a safe environment for people with cancer to talk about their concerns. Since counselors are removed from the situation, they provide a helpful, outside perspective. In an accepting and neutral atmosphere, counselling can help sort out many different types of issues that one may be dealing with when diagnosed with cancer which include coping with one’s reactions to cancer (side effects of treatment, fatigue, pain or sickness, changes in body image), relationship and family issues (change of roles, responsibilities) and personal issues (sexuality, spirituality, activities, confidence)
There are a large variety of counselling and support programs available, including those designed to help people cope with cancer from the initial stage of diagnosis through their treatment, adjusting to post-treatment side effects and managing ongoing impacts. There are also specific programs and approaches to assist patients and their families who deal with metastatic disease and who receive palliative care. Psychosocial counselling provided to cancer patients and their families is helpful in alleviating emotional suffering and in assisting patients to confront and manage the many issues that arise during this difficult time.

Without emotional support, people often struggle, feel isolated and alone in coping with significant issues, such as feeling vulnerable around their own mortality, and in dealing with complex questions around the quality and quantity of their lives.

The impact of the illness can increase the challenges of everyday life, from the marital relationships and difficulties around it or to family communications issues which may have been tolerated earlier. This, along with the discomfort that accompanies the treatment, may further add to the considerable anxiety of living with the cancer itself.

Counselling helps provide strategies for dealing with these emotional issues effectively. Relaxation and visualization techniques, tapping, etc are taught and practiced daily to help with the healing process. The patients are encouraged to voice their feelings or write them down in a journal so as to understand themselves better. Forgiveness exercises help dissolve long standing resentments for many. Techniques to deal with negative thoughts and rumination spirals are offered to patients. Mindfulness exercises and staying in the present is encouraged. As the energy levels may dip during treatment, patients and caregivers are encouraged to set goals accordingly, so as to not feel disheartened and to appreciate small accomplishments daily. Staying positive by practicing gratitude is essential for one’s mental well being. The importance of prayer and existential questions are often brought up by patients to help them get perspective. The value of a support group is incredible at times like these.

At Prashanti, we believe in a holistic approach to healing at all levels – physical, psychological and spiritual. Prashanti offers all the above mentioned services for the patients and caregivers free of cost. Qualified and trained counselors are available to help as required and support group meetings are held monthly.



Coping With Cancer


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