By: Chanel Salazar, Director of Blogging

Cancer & Mental HealthWe live in a world where it sometimes feels like we are just bodies full of energy getting by through life’s challenges. This life is tough. It can be lonely, it can be stressful, and it can be confusing, but our brain is the one thing that can keep us going forward or reversing backward. Think about a deadline at work or at school, it seems like juggling many tasks at once can be close to impossible, but somehow you can get through it by telling yourself, “It’s just one more day to get to the next step.”  All these things can cause anxiety and depression and can put a huge strain on your mental health. But what if one day, through all that your life has given you, it makes a complete stop and there’s a chance you might not have that one more day?

Imagine sitting at the doctor’s office thinking that your one more day has a brighter tomorrow, that your one more day is part of your routine and will simply just be there.  Then, the words “You have cancer” leave your doctor’s lips so slowly that time stops at that moment and your whole world turns upside down. The fear that whispered in your ear daily now is ringing in your mind like a cacophony of demons telling you that this will be the worst of you.  It will test your strength, your happiness, your every aspect of life. This will put a huge hold on your mental stability, from being physically healthy to being weak from chemotherapy, radiation, medication, and surgery. Going through all this puts a huge strain on your mental well-being and is the last thing you want to overcome.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and here at Maribo Cares, we want you to know that we understand and care about whatever mental state you are in while going through your cancer journey. We have volunteers here to help; they do phone call check-ins and appointment reminders to help take the stress off your mind.  They can also set up an availability time so you can call them when you need the mental boost and support to get you through. So first off, never feel guilty for what you feel. Accept that what you are feeling is okay. Feel it, marinate on it, mourn, and cry; then get up and know that this is just a roadblock to getting to the next level of your purpose in life.  Instead of asking, “Why?” Say, “Okay, now what? What do I do to move forward and fight ten times harder?” Be the strong fighter you know you can be!

Now, let’s briefly look at what cancer fighters may deal with while going through their journey.  There may be Chemotherapy, Radiation, Immunotherapy, and/or Surgery.

Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth and/or cell division. It may be given by mouth, by injections, by infusions, or applied topically on the skin.  Chemotherapy may be given alone or with other treatments including surgery, radiation therapy, etc.

Radiation therapy treats cancer by using intense ionized radiation energy beams to kill cancer cells.  X-ray beams are the more common form of Radiation therapy, but protons and other energy sources can also be used to kill the cancer cells as well.

These two common forms of cancer treatments seem like something that would come out of a comic book and naturally turn you into an instant superhero.  These treatments literally strip your body to nothing. At times, they are killing pretty much all of the healthy tissue surrounding unhealthy cancer in your body just to rejuvenate it into a new one.  This process is going to be hard for the person going through the treatments and also on the loved ones watching.

It is sad to say that a high percentage of people having a support group around them when they are in the “hype” of their cancer diagnosis and initial planning stages, end up being alone once things settle down – most times, that’s when having support really matters. Going through the after-effects of cancer causes a huge strain on fighters’ mental health. They feel alone and feel like they are left to mentally fight by themselves, or, they do not want to continue to “burden” the people who are there for them – family members and close friends.

During the recovery process, some cancer fighters get abandoned by many they thought would be there for them throughout the entire process.  If you are dealing with cancer and feel this way, it is ESSENTIAL that you speak up to friends and family members. Here at Maribo Cares, we have volunteers that check-in with you. We call to let you know that we are there after everything has settled down. You don’t have to be strong all the time or feel like no one cares. There is always a Maribo Cares volunteer who will listen and be there for you.

Just know, cancer can mentally affect loved ones as well as cancer fighters. No one wants to see the ones they love go through something so unpredictable and scary without support. Mental health is real. What you are feeling is real. Do not hesitate to call us. We will keep your head above water and eventually pull you out so you can be mentally running free again.  And if you feel you need additional mental health support, we will do our best to refer you to a qualified counselor.

So, if you are a newly diagnosed cancer patient or going through recovery, or are a family member that is dealing with someone who has cancer, we have tools and information that will empower you. At Maribo Cares we care about your mental health.

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