Can a Cancer Diagnosis Cause PTSD?

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Hello lovely you!

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about stress: the good, the bad and the extremely ugly of it. We’ve talked about the fact that stress can wear us down, negatively impact our immune system and allow us to get sick, and sometimes very sick.

So not only can stress cause our bodies to develop cancer, but a diagnosis can give us even more stress. In fact for most people, a diagnosis of cancer will be the biggest stress they ever face.

A soldier develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being in a war. I can tell you from personal experience, being diagnosed with cancer, facing your own mortality for the first time and spending weeks and/or months receiving physically grueling treatments while fighting for your life… that is war!

Research Finds 1 in 5 Cancer Patients Develops PTSD

Not only has recent research found so many cancer patients develop PTSD, they found that survivors can still experience PTSD years after beating it.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Fremonta Meyer, a psychiatrist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and co-author of a recent study: “This underscores the importance of building better programs for longer-term support for cancer patients. Otherwise, we’ll miss people who are really continuing to suffer emotionally.”

Halleluiah! Doctors are finally beginning to recognize just how powerful emotions are when it comes to our health. PTSD will only undermine a patient’s recovery, so it’s important for cancer teams to treat the whole patient, physically, mentally and emotionally.

I read some other comments from doctors regarding this PTSD study. One of them, Dr. Gary H. Lyman, co-director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research has said, “We have just presumed that once the patient passes that acute phase, which may go for six months on average, that their symptoms will abate. So we stop asking the question.”

I think he means doctors stop asking us ‘how we’re doing’ because, hey, we’re still alive so what do we have to complain about?

Dr. Alan Valentine, chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston was refreshingly honest in his comments about the study:

“Do we do as well as we should in following up on anxiety and depression? Probably not. We’re probably missing a bunch of people.”

So there is hope that more and more doctors will begin to pay attention and actually care what is going on psychologically and emotionally with their patients during treatments.

In the meantime, if you are battling cancer and dealing with PTSD at the same time, or you are a cancer survivor but are having a hard time moving on, what can you do?

Keep Reading to Find Out

Before we get to some of the ways you can manage your PTSD, let’s talk about some of the symptoms of it, because it’s important to recognize whether you’re merely a little anxious with your diagnosis and treatment plan, or whether you have full-on post traumatic stress disorder.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of PTSD:

Nightmares

It’s common for PTSD sufferers to have disruptive sleep, punctuated by horrible nightmares. These nightmares aren’t sporadic but usually occur night after night.

Avoiding Triggering Situations

The day you heard your doctor say those horrifying words “you have cancer” was mostly likely the most traumatic day of your life. You may now wish to avoid your doctor’s office because just being there takes you back to the heart-pounding cold-sweat of that day. This is bad, because PTSD can cause patients to miss important medical appointments.

Isolation

When we are on edge and emotionally fragile, it’s hard to be around other people. It is not uncommon for cancer patients who are suffering with PTSD to isolate themselves from their friends and loved ones.

Depression

It’s a miracle some of us don’t experience depression during our treatment and recovery. Facing your own mortality at any age has a tendency to squash your spirits!!

How to manage Your PTSD so You Can Get well and Stay Well

Talk with Someone on Your Team

It’s important that you share what’s going on with someone on your team. This could be your doctor, social worker or counselor. They will either be able to provide treatment or refer you to someone who can help.

A therapist who specializes in PTSD may try different approaches to help you. He or she may talk to you about cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization, prolonged exposure therapy and/or incorporating antidepressant medications.

Please be really open and honest with your care team and therapist. It is important that you get help to manage your PTSD. In order for your body to heal, your mind and heart have to heal first!

Be Gentle with Yourself

Take the very best of care of yourself. Your health must come first. Your needs MUST come first right now.

Connect with Your Spirit

You will need YOU more than anyone during this time. There is a bigger YOU inside you, and this YOU is ultimately powerful. It… AKA YOU… have the power to heal your life. Get quiet. Go within. Become ONE with your inner power.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and take all of your stress away lovely you. I know exactly what you are feeling, because I have been where you are. I have faced the darkness, dealt with the stress and trauma of fighting cancer, and I am alive and here to help you and inspire you to have the strength and the love of self to keep going.

We are healing our lives one day at a time here at Prue’s Place.

With love & gratitude,

Prue

Good Stress VS Bad Stress – Is There Really a Difference?

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Can stress and anxiety cause cancer?

When we talk about stress, we tend to talk about only one flavor of it, the bad yucky kind. I mean, how often do you hear someone say, “Gee, I am so stressed right now and I feel amazing!!” Not often. So it’s clear why we all assume there is only the bad kind of stress.

But there actually is a good kind of stress. And if we listen to it, it can help us avoid the bad kind of stress. But if we don’t listen to it, it can (and generally will) turn into the bad kind of stress. And then we face the possibility of becoming depressed and sick.

When we feel tired, frustrated or irritated about something going on in our lives, we need to start listening to those emotions. These emotions act as guides and can help us recognize that something is off, not right, or unhealthy for us. This can be a situation at work, at home, or with a neighbor etc.

I wasn’t always good at listening to my good stress. Before my cancer diagnosis, I often felt like a victim of life. I assumed that I had no control and that I wasn’t responsible for what showed up in my life. Life was crappy sometimes, I told myself, and our job while on the planet was to “just deal with it.

Boy was I wrong! I now know the importance of listening to my inner emotional voices, whatever they may want to tell me.

Has Your Life’s Engine Light Gone On?

You’ve got to think of stress like the sounds your car makes. Some car owners start to hear a weird rattle noise coming from somewhere under the hood on their way to work. The engine light’s not on and the car still drives, so they choose to ignore the rattle.

The rattle eventually turns into a grinding noise, but they ignore that as well because, hey, the car is still driving.

Finally, one day, the car won’t start and they think this breakdown came out of nowhere and they throw an absolute fit!! Oh the injustice of this breakdown!!

Had they brought their car into the shop when it was only making a little rattle noise, they would have been able to fix the problem and prolonged the life and health of their car.

Good stress is like that little rattle. You’ve got to listen to it so you can avoid the grinding and eventual complete breakdown of your mental and physical health.

How to Turn Bad Stress into Good Stress or even No Stress

Many of us have the habit of perceiving our lives in a negative way. Are you guilty of seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full? If so, it’s important to be honest with yourself and work on shifting your perception of the world and events around you.

The truth is, there will always be heavy traffic and long commutes, noisy neighbors, overbearing bosses and spouses or partners who are toxic and end up NOT having our best interests at heart. The first step is to remove as many of the obvious stressors in your life as you can.

For the rest of the stress that remains, we must find different ways to think about it. This is really important because if you don’t perceive something as a threat, your body won’t respond by producing and releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. I’ve written about these hormones before – they absolutely wreak havoc on our bodies and our health when we are chronically stressed.

So how do you shift your perception of stressful situations?

There are a few different things I do to help me make an attitude adjustment:

1) See the lesson– Is there something you can learn from the stressful situation? Is there something about yourself you’ve just discovered? Will the knowledge you’ve gained help you fulfill your calling or potential in some way?

2) What are the hidden benefits/silver lining? – A friend of mine was injured at work a few months ago. At first she was angry the whole thing had happened. Not only was she in pain, but workman’s comp was only covering some of her missed pay, so she felt some financial stress not bringing home her usual paychecks. But then she realized she could finally spend time at home with her beloved dog while she recovered. She loved this dog more than just about anything and never got to spend much time with him. He had gotten quite old and my friend felt guilt every day leaving for work.

A couple of months after my friend finally went back to work, her beloved companion died. She was so sad, but also so grateful that she could spend so much quality one-on-one time with him before he passed. Her injury and time off of work turned out to be a little miracle in disguise. Try and find those little miracles every day.

3) Rely on your own strength – When you start to feel stress, don’t fall victim to it, find the strength and resources within yourself to beat it. Also, find any beliefs or behavioral patterns of yours that may have created the situation in the first place. Our thoughts and beliefs truly do create our lives! I don’t believe this, I KNOW this to be true.

It will take some practice making these mental shifts, but the more you do it, the more automatic these types of responses will become.

Life is always going to throw us some stress, that is a fact we have to accept. But we don’t have to accept all of the stress that comes into our lives. We don’t have to get so stressful that it causes anxiety and makes us sick. Some of the stress we can get rid of, and some of it we can’t, but we can shift our thinking to see the situation in a completely different way.

With love & gratitude,

4 Ways to Beat the Effects of Stress

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Hello lovely you,

Yesterday, I was sitting in some pretty horrendous traffic because of construction. We must have sat there for close to twenty minutes without anyone moving. Our side wasn’t moving, opposing traffic wasn’t moving. I knew I was going to be late to my appointment and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it except call ahead and apologize.

Now, there was a time in my life where a situation like this would have sent me straight through the roof of my car. I mean, after ten minutes of trying to be patient, I would have eventually snapped and started huffing and puffing and letting loose some not-so-nice words!

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How to Stay Positive During a Health Crisis

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“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”
~ Helen Keller

It’s easy to be overcome by darkness even in the best of times. Before my cancer crisis, I would allow myself to get in such a funk over, looking back, about absolutely nothing. So my friend didn’t call me back? The grocery store ran out of my favorite seed bread. My cousin borrowed my car and left it in my driveway with no gas/petrol in the tank. Who cares?!!

Once you look death in the face you realize these small annoyances are so not worth getting worked up over.
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Are You an Emotion Junkie?

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When you hear the word addict, what do you think of? An addict is someone who can’t live without something that’s bad for them right? Like cigarettes, heroin, alcohol or eating too much?

What if I told you that every single human being on this planet is an addict – without question or exception – would you believe me? It’s absolutely true. We are all addicted to the chemical reactions of the emotions we feel the most.

Sadly, most of us feel negative emotions like anger, grief, sadness and despair more than we feel positive emotions like security, happiness, joy and pleasure.

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Developing a Powerful Mind That Heals

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A while ago I was doing some research and came across a Washington Post article with the title, “Harvard Medical School professor says ‘Miracles from Heaven’ and other remarkable cures could be real.” This obviously got my attention and quick. I was so excited by what I was reading, I don’t think I blinked once!

The reference to ‘Miracles from Heaven’ was about a movie (based on a real event) that came out a couple of years ago, about a young girl with an incurable illness who was miraculously healed after visiting Heaven and coming back.

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Are Your Emotions Making You Sick?

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It’s only recently that doctors have begun to look at the mind/body connection and realize that emotions play a huge role in our overall health. Of course, I could have told them this (well, I tried) years ago.

You see, it wasn’t long before my diagnosis of stage 4 malignant melanoma 30 years ago that my dear daddy was killed by a drunk driver and ripped from my life. I was absolutely devastated when it happened. I was in my early 20s and my father was my world and my best friend. When he was killed, I think a part of me wanted to die as well.

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