Emotions - A Woman's Cancer Journey by Ulla Martz

The weeks and days leading up to your diagnosis of cancer are commonly filled with many conflicting emotions. Fear and anxiety are normal. You are scared about what may happen to your body. Your thoughts go to your family and your job responsibilities. You may feel very much alone and have difficulty focusing on your work and responsibilities. You may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep as your mind wanders. You may find that you don’t remember things. Perhaps you try to convince yourself by thinking that “I’m probably overreacting” or “I take good care of myself…it can’t be cancer”. Remember, these reactions are typical and perfectly normal for anyone trying to cope with a situation such as yours.


Once you have been told, “Yes, you have cancer”, you will likely experience a host of other emotions: you may feel shock and disbelief or anger that this is happening to you. You will likely struggle with a multitude of questions like:  “How will I get through this?”; “Will I die?”; “Will I be able to work?”; “Who can I count on to help me?”; “What will happen to my family?”; as well as many other questions.


It is normal to feel overwhelmed by the decisions that have to be made, and you worry about fully understanding the medical language and the treatment options that you are asked to consider. A cancer diagnosis has sometimes been described as waking up in a foreign country without a road map or knowing the language.


Be assured that it is normal to feel overwhelmed, scared, angry, and confused over what to do in a situation like this. This kind of emotional turmoil may last several days, or in some cases, a week or two. It is also very important that you share these emotions with your doctors and with your family. They can help but only if you share your concerns with them. This is not the time to hold in your emotions; this is the time to share your feelings. Cancer is a family disease. It affects not only the patient but also your loved ones. Your doctor will tell you that your emotions are NORMAL and that there are tools and skills you can learn that will help you get through your cancer journey.


As a woman, you function in many different roles: you may be a wife and mother, often a sister and a daughter, a friend, coworker, and neighbor. As a woman, you nurture others. You reach out and help those you care for and many depend on you. When you learn that you have cancer, you need to make a shift and begin to focus on caring and nurturing yourself and to reach out for help from those who are important in your life. They want to help…but often they wait for you to tell them how to help you! Be specific about your needs–that will make it much easier for others to help you!


The women who have gone before you will tell you how important it is to take charge of your treatment and care, to learn to speak that new language of “medicaleese”, and to empower yourself and be assertive. Remember, it’s your body and your life. You need to look at yourself as an active participant in decisions about your treatment plan.


When your treatment plan has been decided and you are comfortable with the decisions, you will notice that your initial strong emotions usually begin to subside. You will start to feel more confident and hopeful. Now, you can focus more attention on those other areas of importance: care of your physical body and your spiritual needs which will strengthen and sustain your mind and soul. There are many avenues to explore and you will decide which will be most beneficial for you.


Some of you will draw on the strengths you had prior to your cancer diagnosis, and others will look in new directions for the tools and skills which will carry and nurture you through your cancer journey and beyond.

What Cancer Cannot Do To Me
Discussion that cancer cannot change who you are, cannot define who you are, cannot take away hope, cannot take away love
What Can Cancer Do To Me
Cancer will change everything—your choices, physical body, relationships, fear, spirituality, isolation--positively or negatively; cancer will re-energize you towards your life’s long-term goals
Cancer Diagnosis
Introduction to needs, questions, and pillars of wisdom for cancer diagnosis
How Did My Cancer Begin?
Discussion of genetic diseases, gene abnormalities, sporadic cancer, carcinogens, and genetic instability
What Is Cancer?
Explanation of cancer, cancer’s terminology and definitions, and the goal of oncology
How Did I Get Cancer?
Discussion of gene abnormalities, environmental agents, dietary deficiencies, genetic changes, and adaptation to the environment