Emotions of YA Cancer Survivors, Part III: Fear

cancer survivor fear

(This post is the third of a series addressing emotions faced by young cancer survivors and how to cope with them.  See Part I: Guilt here and Part II: Anger here.)

“The challenges and tasks of living with cancer are many. Perhaps most important of all these tasks is learning to live with uncertainty while maintaining a functional and optimal level of hope.” (Source)

I don’t remember the exact moment that I first felt afraid during my cancer journey. It might have been my initial biopsy, waiting for my pathology results, or my first radiation treatment. But I can tell you the last time I felt fear, because it was about five minutes ago when I felt a cramping pain near the lymph nodes of my neck. As many times as I’ve been reassured by my oncologist, every time I feel a pain or a twinge near where my primary tumor was located, I still get a pang of worry – wondering if it’s cancer again, spreading its way through my lymphatic system.

Fear during and after cancer doesn’t end with worrying about re-occurrences. Survivors may also have anxiety over their career or future, apprehension about how their treatment may affect their appearance, worries about fertility, fear over being stigmatized when others learn of their diagnosis, or – perhaps the most stressful of all – the fear that this disease may one day end in death.

These feelings of fear can return at anytime, but may be triggered upon certain events – like the anniversary of your cancer diagnosis or attending a follow-up scan. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship even suggests that these moments “may trigger survivor reactions that parallel those present in post-traumatic stress syndrome” like “re-experiencing the diagnosis and nightmares or flashbacks about the cancer experience.”

Livestrong suggests talking with your healthcare provider about your concerns and making sure to schedule regular follow-ups with your team of doctors. It may also be beneficial to speak to a mental health professional if you feel your fear is too difficult to cope with. MD Anderson’s cancer center proposes that a cancer survivor should return to a normal routine as much as possible, like participating in work or social activities.

For me, attempting to be mindful of my own symptoms as well as focusing on the positive aspects of my life has helped me not to dwell on being afraid (though don’t get me wrong, fear still rears its ugly head every once in awhile).

Have you experienced cancer survivor fear as a part of your diagnosis? What suggestions do you have that may help others who are dealing with cancer survivor fear?

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Emotions of YA Cancer Survivors, Part II: Anger

cancer survivor anger

(This post is the second of a series addressing emotions faced by young cancer survivors and how to cope with them.  See Part I: Guilt here.)

For the cancer patient or caregiver, anger can stem from many places. In my own experience, the anger started right away with the two words I’m sure we’re all familiar with: “why me?” Had I done something to deserve this? When a friend of mine sent me a cancer-related article that I disagreed with, my rage became more evident as I let the annoyance show itself to the people I most cared about – my family and closest friends. Unfortunately, these people were on the receiving end of some rants that I still cringe over when I think back.

Even if you never experience the “why me” questions, you may feel mad regarding the difficult side effects to your health and your life. Many of us experience fatigue, nausea, and pain – and sometimes it’s hard to know when it will stop. We spend time devoting ourselves to the anger and resentment rather than focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many resources I came across as a cancer survivor all had one thing in common: let yourself feel the anger rather than ignore it. Acknowledge that you’re mad about cancer – about how it’s changed your health, your fertility, your appearance, your life – and find healthy ways to express it. Debbie Woodbury, the founder of Where We Go Now, said: “I remember being really angry at the people who wanted to move on and forget about my cancer before I was ready to do the same. I felt alone, abandoned and unheard. As my anger increased, it got too big to share with those same people.” I remember feeling this way. Maybe some of you have too.

Meditation was a great outlet for me to focus on the present and find peace in all of the chaos and irritation I felt over cancer and its treatment. Aside from that, here are some other great suggestions from Cancer.net and the Mayo Clinic:

  • Discuss your anger with a trusted family member or friend
  • Do a physical activity while feeling your anger at its full intensity
  • Beat on a pillow/soft object or yell out loud in a car or private room
  • Explore complementary therapies, such as massage, relaxation techniques, or music or art therapy
  • Take the powerful energy of anger and direct it to something positive, active and creative – writing, exercising, painting, knitting, etc.

Regardless of where you are in your cancer journey or your journey with cancer survivor anger, if you have felt anger then please know you are not alone! I hope the above suggestions begin to help you in coping with your emotions – please feel free to share in the comments if you have any great ideas for how we can all best cope with our cancer anger.

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Emotions of YA Cancer Survivors, Part I: Guilt

Recently I met a fellow young adult cancer survivor whom I will call Tara. Tara is about halfway through her treatment – a few more weeks and she will hopefully be deemed as “cancer-free.” She is amazingly strong and I immediately felt envious of her spirit. We talked about radiation side effects, playing the cancer card, and facing our diagnosis with humor. But the conversation took a serious turn when I asked her about her career.

Tara’s previously cheerful demeanor grew sorrowful and tears welled up in her eyes. “I just feel guilty,” she said. Having felt similarly during my journey (for various reasons) I asked her to elaborate. “I feel bad that everyone at work has to take over for me. I WANT to be there but I just can’t right now.”

Cancer not only attempts to destroy our bodies – it also has adverse effects on our minds. While we’re busy trying to survive cancer, we are often plagued with feelings that seem illogical. (Trust me – they aren’t!) We’ve grown up thinking cancer survivors are supposed to be STRONG and COURAGEOUS and BRAVE. We’re made to feel as if we’re supposed to find some kind of joy in this madness, to discover some “deeper meaning to life.” But when you’re in the middle of the worst pain, anguish, financial hardship, and isolation in your life, it’s difficult to see that this will lead to something greater.

Guilt for the young adult cancer patient comes in many forms. As Tara said, “my co-workers are happy to do anything they can to help me. The problem is, I’m stuck feeling guilty that they’ve got an extra workload.” During my own treatment, the guilt I felt came from not wanting to burden my family or friends. As I journey further into survivorship, it’s because I feel bad that my type of cancer has a high survival rate when other young adults face grim odds; that I still feel unable to work full-time; that I have to rely on others for help.

Guilt is one of the most common emotions faced by survivors, along with fear, anger, and depression. Common reasons one may experience cancer survivor guilt include:

  • feeling like a physical or emotional burden
  • dwelling on past unhealthy choices (tanning, smoking, bad eating habits) that may have led to cancer
  • financial issues created for family members
  • surviving cancer when others do not
  • causing hardship for co-workers
  • feeling like you should be “dealing” with your cancer better (being more positive, for example)

Journalist Suleika Jaouad phrases it best: “From the day I received my diagnosis, guilt has been a steady and quiet companion on my journey.”

Did you experience cancer survivor guilt during your cancer journey? If so, how have you learned to cope?  

(This post is the first of a series. Upcoming posts will address other emotions faced by young cancer survivors and how to cope with them.)

Survivorship: A Journey Forward

When I entered the stage we call “survivorship” I was having trouble figuring out what was next. How soon will I feel better? Do I go back to work? When is my next PET scan? Will my cancer grow back? When will I be able to eat normally again? These, and many other questions, clouded my brain. I found that the “quotes” section of Pinterest was a good source for inspiration to keep my mind at peace.

As simple as it sounds, I learned a few things about moving forward from these quotes. One particular important piece of knowledge I gained was that you must take things one step at a time. Figuring out “what’s next” on your journey is difficult! When it feels like things are completely overwhelming, remember that continuing forward starts with a single step. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Celebrate the little victories. Always remember that you are brave. You are a survivor. And you will get through this.

Here are some of my favorite images I’ve found that bring me peace on my journey. Feel free to follow my Pinterest board for more – and create your own board to inspire your journey forward!







Do you have any favorite sources of inspiration?  Do you have any favorite places to find inspirational quotes?  Share them with us!  For other posts we’ve shared on inspirational quotes go here

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Welcome Janna!

Lacuna Loft is excited to continue introducing some guest bloggers!  These great folks represent a variety of perspectives on the myriad of topics covered here at Lacuna Loft.  Before everyone starts really getting into the nitty-gritty of all they have to say, we wanted to introduce them a bit.  Without further ado, here is Janna!

Hello! My name is Janna. I am a typical 28 year old Midwestern girl – except I have cancer.

Though cancer changed me irrevocably, it is mostly in positive ways. Cancer has provided me an opportunity to become a passionate, outspoken advocate for myself and others. It has also allowed me to re-invent myself in a way I never thought possible. I am currently getting an advanced degree in mortuary science while working part-time as a funeral assistant. I also serve on an advisory council for a local adolescent and young adult cancer program.

In my spare time, I am a very proud aunt, sister, daughter, friend, and lover of crafting. I am also an avid reader – from fiction to medical research to outdated magazines in hospital waiting rooms – you name it, I’ll read it!

I love talking with young people going through cancer, as we face unique challenges in our journey. I am very comfortable speaking and writing about the lesser-publicized aspects of cancer, such as: fears of dying, losing friends after a diagnosis, navigating insurance companies and finances, speaking to our peers about illness, and facing mental health challenges. It is my hope through my blog posts at Lacuna Loft that I can provide comfort and assistance to those who are dealing with the less glamorous aspects of cancer – whether that’s crocheting our way through a bout of depression or finding something interesting to read on particularly bad side-effect day.

One step at a time, we’ll navigate through our journeys together!