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Treating the emotional side of cancer

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While cancer is a physical condition with unique physical health needs, cancer also brings with it very real emotional and mental health needs. 

From dealing with the stress of a diagnosis to focusing on self-care during treatment or accessing financial resources — cancer treatment can feel overwhelming.

Clinical social workers are an important part of the care team who can help make things easier. In addition to answering questions and listening to concerns, they can help eliminate some of the tactical barriers, like finding a ride to an appointment or connecting to local resources.

Clinical social workers are experts who are trained to help on a one-time, short-term or long-term basis. This physical and emotional support can help the patient, as well as their family, focus on healing.

In addition to tapping into the expertise of a clinical social worker, here are a few tips to help during this time:

Four tips for maintaining or improving emotional well-being:

 

  1. Tap into your community.

There are many wonderful community resources that are there to help. Services can be practical, provide an emotional boost or offer opportunities for social interaction. A good place to start is the American Cancer Society website. Simply enter your ZIP code for a list of resources near you. The site can also connect and support caregivers.

 

  1. Plan ahead.

Doing some initial research (or enlisting the help of a friend who enjoys planning) can help you avoid a last-minute scramble or stress. For example, you may know you’ll need transportation or could benefit from a meal delivery program down the road. Researching community resources in advance can also help you understand your choices, lower your stress and give you peace of mind and some control.

 

  1. Connect with others.

Many people find it very important and helpful to connect with others going through the same thing. Support could be a monthly in-person group, a one-time class, or ongoing education about self-care, caregiving, nutrition or legal resources. There are also many online communities available.

 

  1. Stick with daily activities, modifying when necessary.

Modifying normal tasks, habits and activities can help maintain a sense of normalcy. For example, you may not feel up to a week-long camping trip far away, but you may enjoy a shorter trip close to home.

A cancer diagnosis can be scary. Tapping into everything your medical care team can provide while reaching out to others and the community will let you know you are not alone.

Sharon Dexheimer, L.I.C.S.W.

Sharon Dexheimer is a licensed clinical social worker in Mankato, Minnesota, who specializes in working with cancer patients and their loved ones.

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