Dr. Guy Pelletier, a clinical psychologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, has five recommendations to help you stay psychologically strong when you are dealing with the physical challenges that come with cancer treatment:
- Discuss possible physical repercussions with your health-care professional before surgery or treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. This is when coping begins.
- Do as much rehabilitation as possible, with the assistance of related health professionals such as speech pathologists, physical therapists or occupational therapists. Consider seeking help from a counsellor, too.
- Understand that overcoming many of these issues will be hard and you might feel anxious or depressed. “There is little that prepares you for this,” Pelletier says. He works with many patients who are facing physical changes from head-and-neck surgery. “You have no training for when your salivary glands cease to work.”
- Challenge erroneous ideas and beliefs that might prevent you from rehabilitating fully. For example, if you are distressed that people might be staring at you in a restaurant, think about how often you stare at other people – it’s not that often. You might need strategies to get you through a meal. Go ahead and wipe your mouth, ask for more water or eat slower than the others.
- “Accept your new reality,” Pelletier says. “No one is happy with cancer and its aftermath, but many will arrive at the possibility of making peace with the fact that their bodies have changed.”