Emotional Scars: Less Visible But Run Deep

In a previous CancerForward blog post, I relayed some of my experiences with the physical scars I received from my treatment for cancer. Although perhaps less visible to others, the emotional scars from cancer do not quickly fade and can be very serious.

A recent study conducted by the Duke Cancer Institute discovered that cancer survivors experience symptoms similar to that of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often for more than a decade after their initial diagnosis and treatment. Some cancer survivors report lasting behavioral changes, including depression and flashbacks (Mail Online 2011).

For many of us cancer survivors, the findings of that study are not surprising. During chemotherapy, I focused on getting better. Although I struggled emotionally, the goal of recovering helped keep me positive. However, after I finished my eight rounds of chemotherapy, I started having issues with anxiety. While receiving chemo, I felt relatively safe from the cancer. When my chemo was over, I lost that safety blanket and my anxiety about a recurrence skyrocketed. I worried my cancer had returned with every back pain, night sweat, and swollen lymph node. The anxiety made it difficult to focus on anything. I disliked being on my own for the months after my treatment, feeling especially anxious and vulnerable when alone.

Now that I have passed the five-year survivor mark, my anxiety about a recurrence of cancer has diminished, but I still have upsetting flashbacks now and then. Emotional scarring can be dangerous, since it is often easy to hide from others and can have very serious consequences.

I found some relief to my anxiety by discussing it with others, particularly the counselor at my university. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and other psychological changes since cancer, please seek out help. Perhaps one place to start is to ask others in The Survivor Network on CancerForward how they addressed emotional and behavioral changes after cancer.

Category: Cancer

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,