The following information is provided by Lindsay Dobson, MA, Family Therapist at East Cheshire Hospice.
Being pregnant is a big deal! Having cancer is a huge deal! Having both together….I guess unless you find yourself in that position it’s hard to comprehend! Both pregnancy and cancer can have a huge impact on your body and mind. Your body changes and your view of life changes so to have both just seems to be huge! So try to find some compassion for yourself, and take gentle care as you go through these changes of body, mind and soul.
Some feelings that seem to come up are things like;
“My body no longer feels like mine” either because it’s changed beyond recognition or the sense it’s let you down. Try to understand why you might feel that way. It’s kind of natural and your body has changed dramatically. It seems human to therefore feel it’s let you down. But your body is “you”!“you” are not separate and it did not ask for the cancer any more than you did.
You’re struggling along this path together. If you can find compassion for “you” through this and work with your body, using visualisations, caring for yourself, being gentle and loving to yourself, whilst also understanding that you’re going to have days (or lots of them) when that feels incredibly hard, and forgiving yourself for that, then perhaps the journey will be a little easier?
Guilt and fear
Guilt that you have cancer in the first place, that somehow you were living wrong, or doing something to bring it on is common. A position unfortunately that sometimes media and self-help manuals can exacerbate.
Guilt and fear around the incredibly hard choices you have to make, and that somehow you have made the wrong one…”What if the treatment is harmful to my baby?” “What if I’d noticed sooner” The list here of what ifs can be endless if for some reason you miscarry, the guilt can be and gut-wrenching guilt, the endless what ifs about why that may have happened and if treatment or something you did played a part.
Even when baby arrives healthy into the world, guilt and fear around the long term effects, not being able to breast feed and I’m sure you can add to that list.
There is also the complication of what if you don’t feel like some glowing happy mum after you give birth, if instead of feeling full of joy and love, you feel resentment for your baby, depressed, angry? Well actually that’s not uncommon in new mums – never mind new mums that have just gone through pregnancy with the added weight of cancer as well!!! If you can talk to someone you trust and feel safe with, doctor, nurse, counsellor, and then you can start to understand those feelings and work through it.
But for all those above;
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. You’re in the position of making incredibly hard choices, sometimes impossible choices, often in a sea of information that is not always clear or helpful, so try to remember you’re doing the best you can. Get as much information as you can about each choice from those who know, then allow yourself time to reflect upon how you’re feeling, what choices feel right for you and then you have done the very best you could in that moment, with the information you had.
Hindsight as they say is a ***** and I think this is true, because we often judge ourselves on the information we have now – but often that is not information we had when we made the choice – so try to remember why you made that choice and that it was the best choice you could make in that moment. If you feel you would make a different choice in this moment, try to forgive yourself for the choice you did make, it helps you move on if you can forgive and let go of those feelings causing you stress and getting in the way of healing. This is however, sometimes incredibly hard to do – so if that’s the case – seek help.
The best way to find a therapist is word or mouth recommendation and then you can check out whether they are registered by the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists at http://www.bacpregister.co.uk/
If you can’t afford private therapy and would like to see what is available in your area a good starting point is usually your GP as they can direct you to free counselling services in your area. We can also help with this too.
If however you don’t know of a recommended therapist and feel you would prefer to pay for your own therapy, you can search online at http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/therapists or http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk
Anger and Grief
It can seem like cancer has taken away your chance to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy – or overshadowed the pregnancy completely, as well as had a huge impact on being a new mum. You may feel angry at this and how unfair that seems, jealous of other mums to be who get to go through this without the huge cloud of cancer effecting it all or depressed and very, very sad.
And in the words of that very wise bear Winnie the Pooh
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”