Support for your emotions and wellbeing
Most people will experience the psychological impact of cancer and the recovery from this can take much longer than people expect. You may feel ready to get on with life once your treatment has finished however, it is common to have mixed emotions during this time. There may now be the time and space to express the feelings which you had to put to one side while you had your treatment.
You may feel:
Relieved at the end of treatment.
Grateful to those who have supported you.
Excited about the future.
Sad at what has changed.
Confused that you aren’t feeling what you expected to.
Numb at what you have been through.
Let down by friends and family.
Angry at what has happened to you.
Irritated at comments from people.
Worry you will never feel well again.
Miss the reassurance that the hospital team and appointments gave you.
Anxious about your health and the future.
Less confident about how you look.
Resentful at people getting on with their lives.
Nervous about sharing how you feel will upset or worry your friends and family.
Difficult to talk to people who haven’t had cancer.
Dr Peter Harvey has written a useful article about the time after treatment and can be found on his link: workingwithcancer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/After-the-treatment-finishes-then-what.pdf
Mummy’s Star is here to support you through this period, and we offer regular check-ins to see how you are and what will help you through this period. Your Mummy’s Star Information and Support Worker will be able to signpost you to support in your area, please contact them for help with this. If you are struggling with your emotions after cancer or need support outside of our working hours, please contact your health care team or call the NHS on 111.
The psychological aspect of cancer can have a significant impact on you. Many of our mums experience both wanted and unwanted changes in emotions as a result of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Some mums find optimism helps manage the diagnosis, treatment and beyond, while others may experience; guilt, fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety. These emotions can change over time and all are normal reactions to what you are experiencing.
The psychological impact of cancer is not always discussed or supported in the same way as the physical treatment and it is important that mums receive support at a time that is the right time for them, sometimes this can be weeks, months or even years after the diagnosis and treatment. The psychological impact of cancer can last for years and be greater around hospital appointments or anniversaries.
The diagnosis and treatment of cancer create intense and overwhelming feelings which can be difficult to experience. Some of the common ones are:
There can be feelings of 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. There can be feelings of guilt about making treatment choices, the effects of treatment on your baby in the short and long term. You may also feel guilty if you are unable to breastfeed your baby and that that you are unable to be the mum you wanted to be because of the impact of the diagnosis and treatment.
Cancer can create a great deal of fear including how you are going to manage treatment, look after your children as well as what the future holds and fear of dying. It can be difficult to talk about these fears with loved ones as you may want to try and protect each other.
Feeling angry is a common reaction to a diagnosis of cancer and can range from mild frustration to rage. You may feel that cancer has taken away your chance to have a ‘normal’ pregnancy or it has 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 it seems. You may also feel jealous of other mums who get to go through pregnancy without the huge cloud of cancer affecting it all. You may also feel angry at how people treat you and that relationships have changed.
Cancer can create a great deal of change and it can be painful to let go of how your life was and how you imagined it to be and this can create feelings of sadness and grief. Your role as a caregiver may change as you become a care receiver. The treatment and side effects can mean that you are more isolated from friends and family and have less contact with them. There can also be sadness that your body may look and behave differently following treatment. Cancer can also affect breastfeeding and fertility which can create additional sadness.
If the sadness is distressing or long-lasting, please speak with your healthcare team to see what support can be put in place for you.
It is normal to feel anxious after a diagnosis of cancer. Our mums can feel anxious about finances, how you are going to manage family life and treatment and how effective the treatment is going to be. When the treatment ends there can be anxiety about other illnesses and how the diagnosis has changed you and your relationships, and if cancer will come back.
It can be difficult to know where to find support for the psychological impact of cancer. Please ask your hospital healthcare team about what support is available, they may be able to refer you to a hospital-based support service. Alternatively, you can investigate private counselling. Both the BACP www.bacpregister.co.uk and Counselling Directory www.counselling-directory.org.uk have search facilities where you can search for qualified and registered therapists in your area. You can also ask your GP to refer you for counselling and they might know of free or low costs counselling services available in your area.
Being pregnant is a big deal and having cancer is a huge deal and having both together can be hard to comprehend. Both pregnancy and cancer can have a huge impact on your body and mind, your body and view of life will change. Be kind to yourself and take gentle care as you go through these changes of body, mind and soul.
If you would like some support around the psychological impact of cancer please contact your Mummy’s Star information and support worker or email firstname.lastname@example.org If you are feeling unsafe or distressed outside of our working hours please call the NHS on 111 for support.