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After successful but very difficult treatment for tonsil cancer, Mary Lou Rossano-Collier was ready to get on with her life. But the treatments that saved her life also took an emotional toll. She knew she needed to talk to someone about what she was feeling. After seeing an ad in her local paper, Mary Lou decided to visit a cancer survivor support group. When she arrived, the only other person there was the social worker organizing the new group. She told Mary Lou that although it was just the two of them that she could stay and they could talk. She could even cry if she wanted to.
And so Mary Lou did. After a couple more visits, Mary Lou told the social worker to call when the group formed and she would come back. She has been attending ever since, and is now a mentor for other survivors.
Fear, anger, stress, and hopelessness can affect you and your relationships. You may wonder how to deal with these feelings. You may have difficulty talking with family and friends about them. You may need help, but are unsure how to ask for it. All of these reactions and concerns are normal and can come up at any point in your cancer experience.
According to the Association of Oncology Social Work, to improve your emotional wellness, you can:
Cancer can have a profound effect on relationships. In many cases, dealing with cancer will deepen the bonds you have with people closest to you. However, it can also cause changes that you might not expect. You may find that family members are not as supportive as you thought they would be. Longtime friends may have drifted away. Others may try to offer support in ways that are not helpful or wanted.
These challenges are common, and can often be dealt with through open and honest communication.
If you are a parent, few things can be more difficult than answering questions from both young and adult children. They are likely deeply worried about you and may not know how to express their fears and concerns. In some cases, they may be worried about their own future and if they too may someday be told they have cancer. These discussions can be different based on the age of the child.
In her book, After Breast Cancer, Hester Hill Schnipper says, "Sex is one way we say, ‘I’m alive!’ The sensations, the intimacy, the closeness and sense of healthy well-being that it creates is unique."
How you feel about yourself, anger, fear, depression, fatigue, and your body image can all influence your sexual health. In addition, your treatment, along with the effects of cancer can cause physical problems that can make wanting, having, and enjoying sex more difficult. This is normal and help is available.
Tips from the American Cancer Society include:
Talking about sex and sexual health is very difficult for most people, even if cancer is not involved. However, taking that first step of talking to your partner, or care team if necessary, may get you the help you need.