Chemotherapy and your emotions

When you're undergoing chemotherapy, it can feel as if your life has been turned upside down. You're fighting cancer, you may feel tired and nauseous, your appearance may change, your daily routines are disrupted... It's natural to feel shaken up. People undergoing chemotherapy often experience many emotions: fear, sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety. How do you deal with these? Turn to others for support, and deal with your emotional ups and downs by talking about them.

  • Talk to family and friends. The people who love you are there to support you, and they can often help and comfort you in ways that no one else can. But they may be worried about what to say or do – they might not make the first move for fear of making the wrong move. Call them up. Go out for coffee or dinner or a stroll with friends. You'll be glad you did, and so will they.
  • Talk to health care professionals. Information is crucial in maintaining a sense of control and security. Ask your doctor, nurses, pharmacist, and any other members of your cancer care team about the medication, how it works, what to expect – and also about how to deal with your fears and anxieties. They have experience with a lot of chemotherapy patients, and they will have good advice.
  • Talk to counsellors, psychologists or other mentors. There are people who are professionally trained at helping people through emotional difficulties. Your doctor will be able to recommend some. You may want to talk with a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, a therapist or another member of the counselling professions. If you belong to a religious community, your priest, minister, rabbi, imam or similar leader will have experience and training in helping to keep body and soul in harmony.
  • Talk to support groups. There's nothing like talking to someone who knows – by experience – what you're going through. Support groups will give you common ground and shared experience so you can face common challenges together. As well, support groups can be excellent sources of practical information.

There are also some other things you can do to help get through your difficult times:

  • Learn. Learn about your disease and treatment. Know what is happening, what to expect, and what you can do about it. Your health care team will give you a starting base of accurate, personal information. Ask your health care professionals and support groups for advice on additional reliable resources and read as much as you want. But always make sure your information is coming from a trustworthy source. The Canadian Cancer Society ( has a library of resources to get you started.
  • Write. Keep a journal or diary. This will give you another outlet for your thoughts and feelings – one where you can express things you can't express to anyone else. You can also use it to record your side effects so that you can talk about them in detail with your health care team.
  • Relax. Do things you enjoy – try new hobbies and go out with family and friends. Get exercise, too, if your doctor approves. Meditation is another excellent way of reducing stress and feeling better.
  • Plan. Look to the future. Keep your treatment goals in mind, and "keep your eyes on the prize."

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