Isabell Sakamoto, health education intern
Swedish’s first priority is the quality of the care we provide to patients and survivors, which means caring for your physical, mental and emotional health. The journey that begins at the time of diagnosis is a challenging one. There is a lot that happens that is new and unknown, and with that are many different emotions to which everyone responds differently. It can be difficult to determine if the feelings you are having are a result of a medical condition or your actual mood. Some level of mood change is expected, but it is important to recognize shifts in mood that could be signs or symptoms of anxiety or depression. If you recognize significant mood changes in yourself, a caregiver or a patient, reach out and ask for help. Take initiative to tell somebody and start the conversation.
Anxiety1: Signs of concerning anxiety and fear might include restlessness, becoming easily fatigued, muscle tension and sleep disturbances. We recommend you reach out to someone for support if the anxiety you are feeling is concerning, if it is interfering with your life or if it is difficult to control worry.
Depression1: During and after cancer treatment, individuals often report feeling numb. The situation may reflect something more serious, especially if there is a sudden change of mood as time goes on. Depression may result in unintentional weight loss or gain, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and indecisiveness. Significant depression has an impact on one’s daily life. It is important to seek support if you think you or a loved one might be experiencing depression or anxiety.
Tips for patients and survivors: Think of other challenging times in your life. What did you do to deal with those? Although no two situations are alike, it is worth noting what has worked before and try using those skills during other challenging situations.
- Remember to be kind and patient with yourself.
- Find a new routine – take educational classes or attend support groups to keep busy, gain new skills and knowledge and connect to others with similar experiences.
- Find areas over which you do have control, such as days you schedule your doctor appointments.
- Reflect on your values and set goals for yourself throughout your cancer experience. All achievements are worth celebrating!
- Maintain physical health – whether it be your own exercise routine or an exercise class offered through Swedish (visit Swedish.org/Classes or call 1-800-SWEDISH to learn more).
- Take advantage of your skills – do things you are good at or give you joy.
- Talk to your doctor about your sleep regimen to ensure you are getting the rest you need to feel your best during treatment.
- Check your diet – consider meeting with a naturopathic physician or dietitian.
- Consider asking for help with practical things that may be impacting your mood, such as help with transportation.
- Try meditation, guided imagery or spiritual practices that may help with managing your anxiety.
- Attend a support group or ask about other peer-to-peer support services.
- Sometimes additional support is needed to help with managing and supporting anxiety and depression, which may include counseling, therapy or psychiatry. We can help you to locate providers with experience in oncology.
- Visit our Cancer Education Center available at all Swedish Cancer Institute sites to find resources and information on supportive care services.
- Visit our online education center to find more information about your specific cancer and to research treatment options.
- Learn who your social worker is by asking your doctor and reach out to them to provide you and your family with emotional support, quality of life resources and financial resources.
- Physical side effects of treatment, such as fatigue, nausea and uncontrolled pain can be overwhelming and impact your mood2,3. Palliative care is available to all patients at any time during treatment to help manage such symptoms. Contact 206-386-2126 for more information.
Visit Swedish.org/Class or call 1-800-SWEDISH to register for an education class on topics like nutrition, exercise, finances, art and stress management.
Contact 206-386-3228 to find more information on cancer support groups offered at Swedish.
Visit Swedish.org/Cancer for more information. You can also call:
- First Hill: 206-386-3228
- Issaquah: 425-313-4224
- Edmonds: 425-673-8328
1 Lindensmith, Caryn. Personal interview. 10 July 2015.
From the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Life to the Fullest, the newsletter from the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) dedicated to cancer patients, survivors, and their family members and caregivers.