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How Can I Cope WIth the Stress?

Posts: 5
Joined: Mar 2009

I live with my boyfriend of 15 years. He was diagnosed with Small Cell Lung Cancer May 29th 2008. By the time they discovered it it had already spread to his liver. He has been battling it ever since, recently having to undergo Radiation for a brain tumor. I was working part-time up until January of this year, when I was laid off. We are going through an EXTREMELY stressful time right now and it can be very depressing. But somehow we haven't given up hope.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Aug 2006

Dear Karen,

Cancer is one stressful disease. Your boyfriend is one lucky guy to have someone to support him while he fights for his life. None of us get a choice in getting cancer. There's no choice in whether it is aggressive or not, no choice in what organs it travels to. Stuff happens and sometimes it is bad stuff. But there is a choice in what we do when stuff happens. That you are hanging in there and holding on to hope is as heroic as any soldier facing any enemy anywhere in the world. Your post rings with courage that touches my heart.

Please take care of yourself during this stressful time. The stress of fighting cancer is sometimes as bad or worse than the cancer itself. It can actually make you physically ill and long before that happens it can ruin your emotional balance and outlook on life in general. There are some things you can do to protect yourself from the bad side of stress. One is a good routine. It might sound a bit childish, but getting enough sleep, three well-balanced meals a day, an hour of playing outside a day, daily exercise, and having a regular schedule for getting the day's work done helps maintain emotional balance. If you are healthier, you can help him more.

As a survivor, I find going to the doctor, having tests, undergoing surgeries, and all that mess to be stressful. It is not fun for me. To make those kind of things more palatable, I try to plan something pleasant to look forward to each time I have to go through another trip to the doctors. Most times a trip means going 100 miles each way for a two to three hour collection of tests and office visits. But that means we have to eat and eating out is fun for both me and my husband. There are two or three restaurants that we particularly enjoy and looking forward to going there makes life a bit more enjoyable and "normal" in spite of the craziness of cancer. Sometimes I go alone and treat myself to a shopping trip on the way back. I'm not a spend-a-holic, but I like looking and having a bit of time to myself. When I was more in the position of being a caretaker when my grandfather was quite ill with prostrate cancer, we played a lot of cards for the same reason. Playing cards was something he could do and we all enjoyed. It relieved stress for all of us. Finding spots of pleasure and things you can enjoy daily really helps.

Your local Cancer Society might be able to help you get in touch with some programs in your community to help with some of the day to day things you need help with. I know that my community has some programs to help with getting to the hospital and back, paying for some cancer treatments, and stuff like that as well as some programs like the Wellness Community that provide emotional support. The Relay for Life has been a fun activity that brings a lot of survivors and caretakers together that I enjoy. There may be other programs where you live. Calling your local hospital social worker might be a good place to start finding programs that could help.

Of course, you can also post questions and concerns here too. I have learned a lot from reading what the more experienced survivors and caretakers have to say here. The chatroom, if you can get on, is great for "real-time" conversations. Good luck in your fight!

C. Abbott

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