Anxiety due to Cancer

Posted by Bob, Volunteer Mentor @grandpabob, Sep 30, 2019

I am sure there are very few of us diagnosed with cancer that do not, or have not suffered from some form of anxiety. Anxiety, for me started at the time of diagnosis, Large B Cell Lymphoma, the initial shock of that knowledge was the trigger. It is not that it occupied every minute of the day, with everything else that accompanies cancer treatment, there was more than enough happening to occupy the hours. I also recognized that the triggers changed as I moved along the path of cancer care and treatment. Anxiety also led to some wakefulness which led to fatigue, other common side effects.

Some of the triggers of anxiety for me were: How early do we need to leave the house to make it to the appointment on time. Will I have any side effects from this session? Are the sounds of the IV pumps during chemotherapy going to bother me today? (interestingly, those pumps made me very anxious almost all the time.)

To combat anxiety, I took the following actions to lessen this symptom of cancer: Exercise, when I had the energy I walked out of doors, outdoor distractions helped to focus my mind on what I was doing in the present. I meditated and used “apps” such as “Calm” to take my mind off the stresses. When I could, I took advantage of a counselor who coached me to discuss how I was feeling about things.

Are you undergoing any anxiety? What works for you to reduce your anxiety levels?

I have always been able to deal with problems in the past. I have been “strong” and confident I would persevere whatever obstacle lay ahead. One of the biggest challenges was my dads illness. I was living in another state when I received the news that my dad had suffered a stroke. I returned home and dealt with selling his house, assuming power of attorney, taking care of him after his hospitalization. He had a second stroke and had to be placed in a nursing facility where he was eventually placed on hospice. He died in the nursing home. That was 9 years ago. That was very difficult for me but I made it through somehow. Two friends died this year from different cancers. I had followed their struggles. May 2019 I had a nephrectomy for RCC. Now it’s been 5 months since my surgery. I have changed as a person from this experience. It was life altering as it is for everyone. Cancer makes a huge impact on ones life. When my dad became ill I became depressed. But I knew I had to be strong for my mom who was struggling. My friends were each struggling with her cancers and that depressed me but I remained strong to be there as a could for support. When I became ill and had surgery I felt lost. Another challenge life dished out for me. After my surgery I felt panicked. The tumor was gone but I was left with a cancer diagnosis. The panic quelled down I went back to work. But my life is not the same any more. I am depressed again and I also have anxiety. I am often irritated by things that never bothered me before. People in general annoy me at times. Certain people I work with annoy me beyond words! I tend to avoid those people. I am losing some friends but it’s okay because I don’t like them anymore. I have changed. I am evolving into another version of myself. Since I am more of a private person only a select few know about my cancer surgery and that includes family. So some people are confused with my new “behaviors” which manifests as “avoidance”. I just can’t be around certain people right now. The man I had been dating flat out told me he couldn’t deal with my being sick and he walked out of my life. I didnt care! I don’t blame him. I told him it was fine and I felt relief because I wouldn’t have deal with him anymore. I knew that my cancer diagnosis had scared him and he couldn’t deal with it. I feel most comfortable with a few friends and very close family members and my dog. I want things to be simple from now on. Lately I find I can’t stand crying infants, small children, teenagers, and dramatic adults! I don’t like to be in the general public because there are too many annoying people. I don’t like my cancer center and most of the staff. I like my new oncologist. Don’t like his nurse. There is a nurse I trust at my cancer center she is a nurse navigator and she helps me contact my cancer team. She is like my “go to”person. I need to be more involved with my PCP and I don’t particularly like him or his staff. Nothing personal. There are just too many people for me right now and I need distance. I just recently learned how “smothered” I feel at times. I also really hate it when people ask me how I am because depending on what’s going on it can differ greatly. On my way to my MRI I ran into an acquaintance and she stopped to talk. She asked me so many questions! I wanted to scream! I was on my way for an MRI I had been dreading. I was full of scanxiety and I wanted her to disappear! I don’t feel the need or desire to explain my business to anyone! I am having trouble sleeping again because I am worried about my scan results. Then the cycle will repeat. I have hospital bills to pay and I owe thousands of dollars that my insurance isn’t covering so I have deal with that. Cancer is expensive. I will take one day at a time and hope for the best! That is all any of us can do! I am grateful I am not worse off because I know I could be. I need to address my depression/ anxiety because I don’t want to get out of hand. I am grateful for this site because I receive good advise and ideas from people who have been there. No BS here. I appreciate that emmensely!

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Hi, @azkidney57 – since you talked about anxiety and depression due to cancer, I've moved your post here to this discussion entitled "Anxiety due to cancer" so that you can connect with others talking about similar situations.

Glad you have connected with @artscaping and @gingerw on what you've shared here with your cancer journey, the evolution of yourself as a person and the new irritations you are discovering post-diagnosis. I'm hoping that members who've participated here like @grandpabob @merpreb @julieannarcand will have some input for you on the depression and anxiety. @parus and @jiffer69 also may have some thoughts for you.

azkidney57, how have you managed your anxiety thus far, particularly at night, when you mentioned it had interfered with your sleep?

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@lisalucier

Hi, @azkidney57 – since you talked about anxiety and depression due to cancer, I've moved your post here to this discussion entitled "Anxiety due to cancer" so that you can connect with others talking about similar situations.

Glad you have connected with @artscaping and @gingerw on what you've shared here with your cancer journey, the evolution of yourself as a person and the new irritations you are discovering post-diagnosis. I'm hoping that members who've participated here like @grandpabob @merpreb @julieannarcand will have some input for you on the depression and anxiety. @parus and @jiffer69 also may have some thoughts for you.

azkidney57, how have you managed your anxiety thus far, particularly at night, when you mentioned it had interfered with your sleep?

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My doctor put me on Clonazepam the smallest dose I take one at night it helps me sleep. I can use more because it is used for panic attacks which I don’t get thank God. I sleep mostly OK but when I am stressed out I tend to wake up around 2 or 3 am. Sometimes I can’t shut my brain down. I am working on trying to distract myself. I have a full time job and that helps. I will be less stressed out when I get my scan results back! Thank you for asking.

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@azkidney57

My doctor put me on Clonazepam the smallest dose I take one at night it helps me sleep. I can use more because it is used for panic attacks which I don’t get thank God. I sleep mostly OK but when I am stressed out I tend to wake up around 2 or 3 am. Sometimes I can’t shut my brain down. I am working on trying to distract myself. I have a full time job and that helps. I will be less stressed out when I get my scan results back! Thank you for asking.

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Hello @azkidney57,
What works for me when I wake up in the night, is a meditation app with bedtimes stories. At times, I will also read a book that does not interest me a lot. Both seem to work to stop my mind from racing. If you can get something to work, it will reduce any tiredness you encounter at work due to sleeplessness.

I am glad to hear that you have some friends and family that you find supportive. I found that was supportive prior to my diagnosis, is certainly not the same post diagnosis. In fairness to some, they simply do not understand how a life threatening diagnosis changes us and our priorities.

I will keep my fingers crossed that the results of your scans are in your favour.

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@grandpabob

Hello @azkidney57,
What works for me when I wake up in the night, is a meditation app with bedtimes stories. At times, I will also read a book that does not interest me a lot. Both seem to work to stop my mind from racing. If you can get something to work, it will reduce any tiredness you encounter at work due to sleeplessness.

I am glad to hear that you have some friends and family that you find supportive. I found that was supportive prior to my diagnosis, is certainly not the same post diagnosis. In fairness to some, they simply do not understand how a life threatening diagnosis changes us and our priorities.

I will keep my fingers crossed that the results of your scans are in your favour.

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@grandpabob Hi Bob,
Those are all great ideas. I've also found word search puzzles (or any puzzle) to be helpful in distracting me from worry. Books are always good as is music. It is whatever works for you.

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@julieannarcand

I have a tumor in my right cavernous sinus. They "think" it is a meningioma ( slow growing but large enough now for double vision, partial loss of site, extreme headaches of course and facial pain). My anxiety is that initially I was told by the oncologist that he would see me after the biopsy. So I mentally prepared for that but the neurosurgeon said it was inoperable only can do radiation. I did. 9 months later it has not shrunk and I sought a second opinion and here is where my anxiety comes in: this doctor said he would do surgery but not until surgery became less life threatening than to leave it. This he said would be in about 5 years. I've been treated for cluster headaches for over 7 years and it wasn't working so my very good headache specialist ordered yet another MRI and there was the tumor surrounding the carotid artery and sitting on the optic nerve and 2 other cranial nerves. It doesn't feel natural to wait while you know something is growing in your brain and one is in constant pain and my eye site is so bad.

More anxiety ( and some relief) by joining a Facebook group where many people where having the same experience I am; varying opinions and "facts" about this type of tumor such as radiation rarely works. Others in small town Iowa are having successful surgery.

I've learned to do relaxation with a great app and I guess I will keep seeking opinions until I feel comfortable. The oncologist I originally saw did say that a biopsy was needed because although "it was acting like a meningioma it didn't have all of the characteristics ." I know this is a cancer site so please excuse me if I am on the wrong site; I just signed up today, but the neurosurgeon said that it was too dangerous to even do a biopsy so we don't know that it is a meningioma or if it is cancerous. All I know is my eye sight is getting worse as are the headaches ( and I am sorry to complain but they can't possibly get much worse).
Anything definitive as far as an answer would relieve the extreme anxiety I'm having right now not knowing.
Thank you for listening.
Julie

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I would love the facebook group information. I am currently waiting for referral to oncology for the same and was told its inoperable and that treatment is the same whether its cancer or not.

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@loolookirl Hi and welcome to MayoClinicConnect. This is not a site for diagnosis since we’re all volunteers. We share what works and doesn’t and generally give advice. Somehow the name @juliaeannrcard wasn’t spelled correctly so she probably didn’t get your message. Anyway, there are lots of Fb sites for cavernous meningiomas but most of them seem to be science related. Maybe @johnbishop, our internet guru can help with more information. I, too, have a thing in my brain, an inflammation, and I’ve learned so much from the people here!

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@loolookirl

I would love the facebook group information. I am currently waiting for referral to oncology for the same and was told its inoperable and that treatment is the same whether its cancer or not.

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Hello @loolookirl – I think @julieannarcand may not be following any discussions so may not have received your post above. Here is some information that you may find helpful.

Mayo Clinic's Brain Tumor Program: https://www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/brain-tumor-program/sections/overview/ovc-20439725

The Most Common Brain Tumor: 5 Things You Should Know: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-most-common-brain-tumor-5-things-you-should-know

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@louise73

I started 3 years ago with pulsating tinnitus in both ears 24/7. I had anxiety and one panic attacks after another. I would walk the street in front of my house when ever they occurred which was usually at night. And yes, I thought about suicide. I was weak. I saw a psychiatrist and started on Klonopin. and Paxil. I could not handle it on my own, the noise was so loud. I will b praying for u. Keep posting

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Hi Louise. I also get anxiety due to pulsating tinnitus I have for 5 years I don't know if there was a medication after open heart surgery 6 years ago or what did it what else helps you

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From the moment I heard the word cancer I went into anxiety. I could only see the people I knew that had cancer and had passed away after much long suffering and pain. I was so afraid of chemo and all of it's side effects. I did not want my hair to fall out, I did not want to be sick and have no quality of life and then die anyway. The thoughts of chemo was and still is so horrifying to me. I have become obsessed with that part of cancer it is embedded in my mind as the worst thing that can happen to a body. After I had my surgery the dr immediately wanted me to sign up for chemo but I just could not do that. I wanted a second opinion before I would even think about it. I got my second opinion and he convinced me my cancer was only stage one and 6 treatments would be all I would take. I said ok and yesterday was my first treatment. There was a little problem with the first bag that made my mouth,tongue and throat swell up. The chemo was stopped, I was given a dose of steriods and it stopped the swelling and after that it all went ok. I am waiting on the side effects to kick in so I will know just what to expect. I am told it takes 2 to 3 days for that to happen so I am stressing out over that. Every day, hour by hour is making my anxiety kick in and because of that I am not able to eat and have not been drinking the liquids I need. It's getting close to my bedtime and I am anxious about lying down because I know that is all I will be thinking about. It's as tho my husband doesn't really care about what is happening with me and it makes me feel so lonely. I found out his way of coping with my cancer is acting like it isn't happening. He does take care of me and makes sure I have what I need.However I still feel like I am alone in this and don't know where to find a good support group to attend.

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sqdncnws @sqdncnws
Sorry your going thru a rough time and feel alone.
Depending on your locations and where you are receiving your treatment, there may be multiple options for support.

Mayo site has some advice on support groups and dealing with stress: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/support-groups/art-20044655

American Cancer Society has info on support groups https://reach.cancer.org/?_ga=2.58049706.1226844383.1599218342-390726876.1599218342

Also, check into getting a therapist for someone to talk to during this difficult time. Let your oncologist know your having a tough time and he/she may be able to recommend someone.

Wishing you the best
Laurie

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@sqdncnws

From the moment I heard the word cancer I went into anxiety. I could only see the people I knew that had cancer and had passed away after much long suffering and pain. I was so afraid of chemo and all of it's side effects. I did not want my hair to fall out, I did not want to be sick and have no quality of life and then die anyway. The thoughts of chemo was and still is so horrifying to me. I have become obsessed with that part of cancer it is embedded in my mind as the worst thing that can happen to a body. After I had my surgery the dr immediately wanted me to sign up for chemo but I just could not do that. I wanted a second opinion before I would even think about it. I got my second opinion and he convinced me my cancer was only stage one and 6 treatments would be all I would take. I said ok and yesterday was my first treatment. There was a little problem with the first bag that made my mouth,tongue and throat swell up. The chemo was stopped, I was given a dose of steriods and it stopped the swelling and after that it all went ok. I am waiting on the side effects to kick in so I will know just what to expect. I am told it takes 2 to 3 days for that to happen so I am stressing out over that. Every day, hour by hour is making my anxiety kick in and because of that I am not able to eat and have not been drinking the liquids I need. It's getting close to my bedtime and I am anxious about lying down because I know that is all I will be thinking about. It's as tho my husband doesn't really care about what is happening with me and it makes me feel so lonely. I found out his way of coping with my cancer is acting like it isn't happening. He does take care of me and makes sure I have what I need.However I still feel like I am alone in this and don't know where to find a good support group to attend.

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@sqdncnws– Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. You don't mention what type of cancer you have or when you were diagnosed. I'm a mentor for the Lung Cancer Groups and Lung Diseases for Mayo Connect. When I found out that I had cancer, even if I was not completely surprised as a long time smoker, it felt like the earth just opened up and tried to swallow me. I had one panic attack after another and went around dry-heaving my way to my pre-surgery appointments.

Any cancer is life-changing and because there isn't any guide book, it's very frightening, to say the least. My first thought when I could think again was, of course, that I was going to die. But not all cancers lead to death and there have been so many advances in treatments that it's a different cancer world. My first cancer was in 1997 and I'm still here after almost 23 years. Although I have still do have lung cancer my cancer is being managed as a chronic illness and not terminal illness.

When I checked-in for my first chemo appointment my blood pressure was way high and I swore that everyone could hear my heartbeat. I almost had my head shaved but my hairdresser suggested that I find out if the chemicals that I would receive caused baldness. I found out that they might not, so I didn't have it shaved. My hair thinned but I was not close to being bald.

Chemo is a double-edged sword but it's a damn great thing that we have it. It's wonderful that you have an excellent immune system, it will help your body to heal and work along with the chemicals. Are you having chemo or immunotherapy? Drinking a ton of water will help get rid of the chemicals. You really do need water to do this and to help lessen the side effects and keep you hydrated, otherwise, you will feel worse. You will also need to keep up your strength by eating as well as you can. If you allow your anxiety to rule you will find that your body won't be able to help you as much as it can.

I suggest that you sit down with your husband and explain exactly how you feel. Be kind and gentle so that he can better help you. He has to know how his actions make you feel. You can help guide him on how to best help and support you. It's his first time with cancer with you, I assume. He also is probably scared to death.

Having cancer takes away your power over your body. You have to let people whom you have never met touch you, stick needles in and otherwise reduce your choices of what needs to be done. Research everything that you can about your illness. Education is power and the more that you know that better off you will be. It will help you keep a sense of control over your life. You will be a better patient because your appointments will be less about fear and more about treating you. It will also help lessen your fears and stop your imagination from running wild and clouding your mind. The more control that you feel will also help lessen the drain the toll it takes on your body. You need every bit of energy to stay healthy throughout your treatments.

As long as you feel well, walking will help you keep up your strength. Try not to stop your life. I did and it was a big mistake. If your husband can shop then have him do that so that you can stay away from crowds as much as you can. COVID-19 is still out there so be more vigilant with your own protection.

What are you doing more carefully now to protect yourself? How are you feeling?

Merry

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