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Patient Power: How To Handle The Emotional Aspects of a Cancer Diagnosis
Posted: Nov 09, 2015
Patient Power: How To Handle The Emotional Aspects of a Cancer Diagnosis image
Dealing with Anger and Stress After a Cancer Diagnosis

from Patient Power on Vimeo. Few things are more frightening than hearing the words "You have cancer." Anger. Depression. Sadness. Fear. These are just a few emotions one contends with at diagnosis and beyond. Here are tips from Patient Power to help identify needs and cope. You can read the transcripts of the video here:

Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power. I’m Andrew Schorr.  So when you’re dealing with cancer—and I’ve dealt with two cancer diagnoses—it’s devastating.  And you look to your healthcare team for help. You want to treat the cancer of course, and so on your team is your physician, maybe several physicians, nurse practitioner perhaps, physician’s assistant maybe nurse and, you say that’s your healthcare team. But you have other needs as well. How about mental health needs, resources? Well, the person that can help is the oncology social worker, and we are joined by one now. That’s Midge Myhre. Midge is an oncology social work counselor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Midge, help us understand the role of the oncology social worker?

Midge Myhre:

Sure.  One of our major roles is to assess for barriers to care, and that can mean a lot of things. And it's very individualized, so I really suggest reaching out for help.  We will do a very full assessment at first.  We will look at is there some counseling that you need?  Is there some depression going on?  Is there some anxiety?  Is there some anger going on?  Are there resources that maybe could really help out with getting the care that you need?

Andrew Schorr: 

You mentioned anger, and that is certainly understandable.  Believe me, I have felt it with my cancer diagnosis. And sometimes it’s the caregiver or family member who feels it too.  What tips do you have for helping us manage anger?

Midge Myhre:

So first of all, it's very normal to feel very angry.  I suggest compartmentalizing, looking at your anger.  What is it that I'm angry about?  Getting three strategies, three only, to look at. What can I do today, what can I do this week, and what can I do this month? Stick with that.  Keep it very—keep it very simple, so you don't go all the way into that anger to where it just becomes overwhelming, and you can't think straight.

Andrew Schorr: 

How about reducing stress? It is stressful being a cancer patient, certainly going through treatment and just living with the diagnosis, so what tips do you have to help us de-stess, to relax?

Midge Myhre:

We work on mindfulness a lot.  We have some studies where we can get you connected to specific therapists in the community that work on mindfulness techniques, yoga, things that you might not think about a lot but really helpful.  And I always say try everything, because sometimes this anger is very new, and the stress is very new, and you don't know what's going to work.  So sometimes I'll say to people, just humor me a little bit and just try it.

Andrew Schorr: 

Great information from oncology social worker, Midge Myhre from MD Anderson Cancer Center to help us feel a little bit better, a little more relaxed as we go through our journey with cancer. I’m Andrew Schorr. Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all.

The author Lizzy Smith

about the author
Lizzy Smith

Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.

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