In 2019, Amy Hart received a diagnosis of colorectal cancer a sus 34 años. After treatment that included surgery to remove her colon, Amy no longer had the disease, but still had to deal with the many mental health challenges that accompany her condition.
“I think when I hear the words, ‘tienes cancer’, no matter what the diagnosis, the stage or the type of cancer, it’s something very depressing”, said Amy. “Hace que contemple de close to your own mortality and if you have 34 years and two small children, you begin to feel an internal struggle”.
Most cancer survivors face some sort of mental health problem, he said. Becky Selig, MSWdirector of research and education of patients to Fight Colorectal Cancer [Lucha contra el cáncer colorrectal]an organization of defense and empowerment of patients, but women, in general, may be particularly affected.
“Piensa en todas las demands que tienen las mujeres”, said Becky. “Many cancer patients also struggle with other challenges inherent in everyday life, you know, being a woman, a mother and trying to balance many factors in life. Todo eso puede agravar a lot las things”.
Amy and other survivors of colorectal cancer may face a wide range of mental health difficulties, including anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Understanding the impact that colorectal cancer can have on your mental health can be helpful in finding ways you can deal with it.
Survivor of colon cancer, but still at risk
For many people with colorectal cancer, survival is just the principle. A study of nearly 9,000 survivors of colorectal cancer found that such individuals had more likely to receive a diagnosis of a mental health disorder that other people, even after five years or more have been diagnosed. And colorectal cancer survivors who received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder had an increased risk of dying compared to those who did not receive it.
The anxiety and the depression are particularly frequent and affect a about 4 out of every 10 survivors of colorectal cancer, What is one of the most important sources of anxiety for Amy and for other survivors of colorectal cancer? Fear that the cancer regress. “Once you hear the words ‘tienes cancer’, you will always feel that you can hear them again”, said Amy.
Los sobrevivientes frequently use the term “Angustia of the tests” to describe the anxiety you feel before routine cancer tests. “Even if you have negative results for 10 years, the week before the test will be difficult”, said Amy.
Death to your body, with all the changes
There is no secret that for many of us it is difficult to amar our bodies. If you add to the mix the important physical changes caused by colorectal cancer, accepting it as we are might seem impossible.
“We have heard many survivors talk about bodily problems and vertigo related to some of the changes they have experienced through surgery and treatment”, said Becky.
Low self-esteem had been a problem for Amy since long before her diagnosis of colorectal cancer. “Tenia difficulties as a woman and as a person almost all my adult life are related to accepting and loving me”, she said.
After her diagnosis, Amy had to deal with her bodily changes caused by colorectal cancer. The surgery to remove the colon is given with one ostomya pouch that is used outside the body that collects feces through an opening called a stoma.
“Just before having the surgery, I was convinced that my life was over”, said Amy. “Y tenia mucho miedo de cómo reactionaría cuando despierte”.
But even though she knew that the ostomy would affect her body image enormously, Amy didn’t imagine how much it would change her shape in that she felt like herself and that in the end she would die more than herself.
After a lot of work (with the help of a support team that includes a therapist), Amy accepts her body much more, including everything and the ostomy.
“It passed during a considerable period of time before starting my recovery process in terms of my self-image. But on the other hand, now that I have to use the ostomy bag and after having experienced some of the most difficult moments of my life, I feel more secure in myself”, said Amy. “I am still learning to accept and have difficult days. But now I feel that I am much more friendly with me than myself”.
Find ways to deal with the effects of colon cancer on mental health
For some women, using a beautiful or decorated ostomy bag can be useful to face the situation, giving them the opportunity to express their personality and improve their body image. You can find a variety of selections of bag covers on the internet, including stunning and exotic designs.
To deal with the mental health difficulties produced by surviving colorectal cancer, Becky said it is important to be honest about your needs. “It is difficult for many people to let others help them”, he said. “The date of asking for help and accepting it is something enormously important”.
Becky also suggests talking with a therapist or other survivor who understands your experience and who can assure that everything you feel is completely normal. “You are not the only one who feels these anxieties and fears”, said Becky.
Amy’s process as a survivor of colorectal cancer inspired her to share her experience with them. social networks With the hope that I can help other people who are going through difficult times.
“Quiero a lot que las pepan que pueden a normal life depués de todo esto, con adaptaciones to all los changes”, he said. “Life will go on being beautiful, painful and irritating, as it always has been”.
This resource was prepared with the support of Merck.
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