Coping With Lung Cancer: An Individual Experience

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Topics include: Living Well

Dr. Sarah Rosenbloom and cancer survivor Janice DeArmas discuss the importance of speaking with mental health professionals and accepting help from your family, friends and care team. Tune in to learn more. 

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Susan Leclair:     

Sarah, this one is for you. Should everyone see you or see someone like you? How do people go about coping or even attempting to cope on a psychological level?

Dr. Rosenbloom:                

Those are big questions.

Susan Leclair:     

And you only have three minutes.

Dr. Rosenbloom:                

I think most people don’t want to see me or don’t want to be anywhere near me.  And I think that’s also perfectly normal. As a psychologist, there are lots of things that can be helpful in cancer treatment. But mostly, I think when people are dealing with a new diagnosis especially emotional health or mental coping is kind of one of the furthest things from their mind.  They’re focused on getting information, getting the most important treatment recommendations, and really hitting the ground running. However, that’s also a time that I think distress can be the highest.  And, I mean, there have been many, many studies about anxiety and depression and distress in cancer.

I think, you know, the average is about 40 percent of people experience pretty significantly, clinically, important levels of anxiety and depression. And one important thing to note is that it is completely normal.  That is something to expect. And it’s a natural reaction to a very serious, like you said, bolt out of the blue. But that also doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated and that the symptoms can’t be managed a lot better. And there are lots and lots of ways to manage those symptoms. And sometimes, people aren’t even aware of what tools they might be able to utilize in themselves to cope. 

And in answer to the coping question, it’s really individual. And I think that’s one of the things that is very difficult to generalize in terms of a response. There are individual coping strategies that people can use to sort of harness their thoughts and their emotions.  There are also ways that people can combine together and get group support like with organizations such as LUNGevity and others. And some people just really aren’t group people and, you know, would prefer never to talk about this at all with anybody.

And in those cases, especially, it might be useful to seek out individual support from a therapist or a counselor. But coping is so unique and individual. There are many resources out there that I think are very good sort of resources and tools that can start the process.  And when you talk about, you know, discussing it with others, that’s also unique and individual. And I think it really depends on what the purpose of communication is. I mean, are you going to be talking to your employer, for example, about time that you might need off of work?

Are you going to be talking to your family and your loved ones about expectations for treatment or how involved or engaged you can or can’t be in regular life?  So it really depends on the communication and to whom it’s focused.

Susan Leclair:     

When I was wandering around during the lunchtime, somebody was telling me that she has started to do Tai Chi and that she found that to be almost better than walking.

Dr. Rosenbloom:

Each person might have a proclivity for one thing over another, to put themselves in different emotional states at will.

Susna Leclair:

Janice, now, you mentioned earlier that your dog helped you. What were there any other coping mechanisms? I’m sure your family was involved in this? What helped you during the hard times? 

Janice DeArmas:                 

I would say my husband, my mother, of course, my immediate family members definitely, my good friends.  I think the main thing is to, uh, for a lot of people, is to realize that you may need help. 

On good days, you can do what you can do. But on bad days, you’ve got to let it go and let other people help you. And I think a lot of people have a hard time letting go and coming to the realization that maybe I can’t do all of this today. I need to just take it easy and relax and let somebody else do it, even though they’re not going to do it the way I would want it to be done, that it’s okay and to let someone else come in and help you out.  It makes a difference.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on November 12, 2015