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The Trauma of Cancer

Oct 10, 2016 02:03PM ● By Don Short

Distress is common in individuals and their families when someone receives a diagnosis of cancer. This feeling of distress is often intense for the individual and their loved ones. This distress can create feelings of powerlessness, fear, panic and anxiety. It affects how we think, what we do and how we interact with others. Many believe cancer means death, but we have to remember that there are millions of people in the United States who have had cancer and are alive and living out their lives.

Feelings of distress are also triggered by fears of uncertainty about the diagnosis and its potential impact on the future, changes in one’s life, concerns about work as well as insurance and financial issues. Everything about cancer is stressful! At times it is overwhelming to the individual and their loved ones. The side effects of treatment, the fatigue, the hair loss and other life changes can make one feel angry, irritable and hopeless at times.

Psychotherapy in general and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in particular can be very helpful during and after one receives cancer treatment. EMDR Therapy can be very useful in processing and alleviating distress, anxiety and fear during the cancer treatment and after the cancer treatment has been completed.

Four ways cancer survivors still struggle even several years post diagnosis: 1) Fear of recurrence. 2) Anxiety when going on doctor appointments. 3) Physical pain. 4) The anniversary date of the diagnosis. These fears and anxieties do not have to be an inevitable outcome of surviving cancer. EMDR Therapy is very useful at processing and alleviating these disturbing responses. This therapy assists individuals in getting on with their lives in a more healthy way.

Finally remember this! If you are dealing with cancer personally or you have a family member with cancer or a friend, here are five things you must do. 1) Develop healthy ways of coping and if necessary, seek professional help. 2) Live one day at a time and get the most out of each day. Try not to worry about the future. 3) Develop a healthy support network with your family, friends and faith community. 4) Ask your doctor questions, be informed and keep records of all your treatment. 5) Keep a journal, express yourself and don’t hold back. Also, I want to identify three don’ts. 1) Don’t believe cancer equals death. There are over 13 million people in the US that are alive and have survived cancer. 2) Don’t feel guilty if you can’t be positive all the time. We all have our low points. 3) Don’t suffer alone. Ask for help and talk about your worries and concerns. Help is only a phone call away.

 About the author: Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. He is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or