For cancer patients

Learning that you have a serious illness is a blow. Cancer is frightening and tormenting. Fear is a natural response when you are faced with an unknown and serious illness.

Amidst all the initial shock there is a whirl of questions in your mind: Is this really happening to me? Why? Will I pull through? What if I die?

It is a comfort to know that the outcomes of cancer treatment in Finland are outstanding by both European and global comparisons. Due to the latest treatment methods, recovering from the disease is increasingly possible, or at least the symptoms caused by cancer can be treated and the progression of the disease slowed down.

Fear is a natural response when you are faced with an unknown and serious illness. It affects not only yourself as a cancer sufferer but also your family and others close to you. You and your loved ones need plenty of information and support.

Everyone experiences the illness in his or her own way. However, being diagnosed with cancer often initially brings on a psychological crisis, the different stages of which include:

  • Initial shock: everything feels unreal. This stage can include feelings of shock, restlessness, despair and sometimes denial.
  • Reaction stage: when you start to understand what has happened and to react to it. All sorts of ‘why’ questions preoccupy and you look for what was to blame. This is often a time of emotional turmoil and can include depression, loss of appetite and insomnia.
  • Dealing with the crisis: you start to process the issue mentally, either consciously or unconsciously. Now the real work starts.Feelings of torment and depression start to ease. You find coping strategies that protect you and help you manage.
  • Reorienting: by accepting your illness you begin to adapt to the situation and learn to live with it.

Many people find that getting information, thinking and especially talking  help. Your first reaction to being ill may be fear, or you may try to rationalise the situation. Then again it may seem more natural to keep it in and deal with it by being active. For some, their belief in a higher being is a great help and source of strength. If your own staying power to cope falters, it is a good idea to ask for help from someone close to you, from the nursing staff treating you or from your regional cancer association.

Not everyone responds to his or her illness in the same way. The situation of everyone who has cancer is distinctive. There are many stages to the disease, its detection and treatment. You can get more information about your illness and your treatment primarily from your doctor and other medical staff. You can find general information about cancer here and about treatment here.

The Cancer Society of Finland (CSF) provides information and support to people with cancer at all stages of the illness:

Telling your loved ones that you have cancer

How should you tell those close to you that you have cancer? How should you talk about it to your children, parents and friends? Questions like these are often uppermost in your mind at the onset of illness. Talking about it is not easy.

There is no right or wrong way to talk about having cancer. There’s no need for stock answers at a time when as a cancer patient your thoughts are all in a muddle. Some people find  they want to talk about it right away, others only when they’ve had a chance to think about it. Keeping things to yourself may feel the best and easiest approach, but you should also think  about whether you can seek help and comfort from those close to you.

Don’t worry in advance about how they will react. When it comes to cancer, people respond differently.

How should you tell children about cancer?

How should you tell them at work that you have cancer?

Sources

Joensuu, Heikki; Jyrkkiö, Sirkku; Kellokumpu-Lehtinen, Pirkko-Liisa; Kouri, Mauri; Roberts, Peter J. & Teppo, Lyly (toim.) (2013) Syöpätaudit. Helsinki: Kustannus Oy Duodecim.

Suomen Syöpäpotilaat ry. Ensitiedon opas syöpään sairastuneelle. Helsinki.

Suomen Syöpäpotilaat ry. Selviytyjän matkaopas. Helsinki, 2014.