How to Manage the Psychological Impact of a “Terminal” Cancer Diagnosis on a Patient and His/Her Loved Ones

Psychological Impact

(DoctorFarrah)- One of the questions I constantly and frequently receive in the last 15 years of my treating almost “terminally” ill cancer patients, meaning Stage 3 and Stage 4, is “Doctora, how do we handle this diagnosis from a medical doctor that my father/mother/husband/wife/son/daughter, etc. is already on a “terminal stage” of cancer? Is there a way to turn this around, make it sound less like a death sentence?

There is always a way to turn this around – and a lot of it depends not only YOU, the cancer patient but also his/her FAMILY and/or SUPPORT GROUP.

So let me share with you my 3 point formula for managing a situation. It is where you or your loved one or friend has handed a “terminal” cancer diagnosis.

Step 1:  Let the information sink in but don’t treat it as a death sentence!

It takes a few days or even a week to let a drastic diagnosis sink into you and most especially your loved ones. So let the information sink in for a while. While you are doing this, you may feel like crying or just talking about your problem to your immediate family member, a BFF or a few good friends. Express your worst fears with your support group. Sometimes all you need to do is just air them out (we will come to the solution for that in a while).

Now here is the lowdown on things:  most medical doctors are trained to be on the “conservative side” of the cancer diagnosis spectrum. What is sadly lacking in most diagnoses these days and are usually not mentioned are the other “factors” of survival, namely, alternative natural-based treatments that have worked with various other patients throughout the globe and your PERSONAL FACTORS. We are talking about naturopathic, Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments. These treatments have successfully cured a lot of patients – and when I say a lot, it means around the thousands.

Your Personal Factors include the “will to live”. It is a positive disposition to tackle any challenge including a health challenge. Your state of health (you could be a health nut before the diagnosis so this helps greatly in overcoming a grim diagnosis), etc.

So this is the next step!

Step 2:  Open your MIND to other forms and types of cancer treatment and prevention

This is the stage where your “support group” can help in sourcing information about the latest and most effective ways of cancer treatment. This includes having your friends or family help you check out information about a drug, cure or agency asserting that it is a cure for cancer.

We have written before about clinical studies showing the positive effect that a support group has on a cancer patient’s DNA after receiving the more conventional treatments like chemotherapy, surgery and radiology. The study found that the test cancer patients’ DNA did not change when the patients’ emotional and spiritual needs are still being met on a weekly basis.

So work with your support group to find not just the best possible solution for your situation. But also try to find the one that you will be “at peace” with and comfortable on using. And this can happen only if you have ALL THE FACTS regarding your condition and the different treatments currently available.

Step 3:  To Find Wisdom, You Must Find First Your Inner Peace

Currently mainstream cancer treatments now like chemotherapy, radiology and surgery recommend “immediate”. And sometimes unfortunately “long-lasting” solutions to a terminal or Stage 3 and 4 cancer diagnoses. Most of the time, the patient is not able to weigh the different kinds of treatment. It is because doctors advice patients that the offending cancerous tumor has to “taken out” at the earliest possible time.

My advice to that is two-fold. Let me elaborate on the following:

1) Ask your medical doctor/oncologist what are your chances of surviving. Together with the treatment and the estimated number of years it will prolong your life. There have been many, many times when a doctor has prescribed chemotherapy or radiology. Yet don’t even tell the patient that these kinds of treatment are only “palliative” in nature. This means it basically only lengthens your life usually by a number of years.

Think very carefully if you are up to facing a host of painful treatments. This is wherein the attending nurse inserts a hazardous chemical into your body to kill the cancer cells. The attending nurse practically uses gloves to administer it to you usually trough a stent on your arm or chest. And this treatment will have to occur for at least 2 months, sometimes a year.

In fact, a 2004 study conducted by the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Northern Sydney Cancer Centre discovered that of 154,941 numbers of patients (Australians & Americans) treated by conventional cancer treatments. This includes chemotherapy, only 2.3% of Australians and 2.1% of Americans managed to survive chemotherapy after 5 years.

The study didn’t say though if any of the 3,306 patients who survived chemotherapy were “cancer-free” or survived after the 5-year mark. That is a study worth conducting!

Here is the study for you to review in depth:
Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors

2) To be able to decide on the previous option, you need to have some ME TIME to think things over. This seems that sometimes impossible. Considering the enormity of the issue you have to face and the seriousness of the decision you have to make.

But you do have to set aside some time to think things over and get a grip of your situation. Meditation helps a lot based on a number of clinical studies. This means that Meditation helped reduce anxiety over the prospect of cancer treatment and helped in coping with post-treatment anxiety.

I faced thousands of patients who were turned away by other supposedly “more prestigious” and “well-equipped” facilities with the latest advanced cancer-fighting technologies in place because their case was a “lost case” or “nothing can be done anymore”. A great number of those patients lived to tell the tale of their recovery from cancer and are living a normal life now.

Image by EPGadin / CC BY 2.0

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