By Larry Moliterno, CEO, Meridian HealthCare
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Everyone knows someone who’s been diagnosed with cancer: a parent, a child, a friend, maybe even you.
We all understand the pain that accompanies diagnosis, not only from the disease itself but also from treatments and procedures. But more often than not, we forget the toll it can take on the mind, too.
My friend was diagnosed with cancer three times. Yes, the treatments and procedures to beat the disease were hard. But do you know what she says was harder? Telling her family.
Truth be told, she worried more about her family than herself the entire time she was undergoing treatment.
The first diagnosis came during her senior year of college. It was supposed to be a fun year. She was supposed to be partying with friends and planning for her future, not worrying about her next doctor appointment.
It sounds silly but missing out is what she remembers most. While her friends went out and lived normal lives, she couldn’t.
Thankfully, she recovered. She beat it. But then, 10 years later, she was diagnosed with the same cancer again. How? She did everything right. She took every precaution. She won, remember?
But still, she heard the same three words that she never thought she’d hear again: “You have cancer.”
The second diagnosis was worse than the first. The hope she had from beating cancer the first time was lost in an instant.
The impact of how a diagnosis can affect your mental health is often swept under the rug and saved for later (if ever). Being told you have cancer is a traumatic event in and of itself. It’s a moment – a single statement – that changes your life forever.
Physical treatments are draining, not to mention the fact that they can make you feel hopeless.
It’s no secret that living with any major disease is hard on your body. But it’s extremely important to remember that it affects the mind, too.
The one thing that always stuck out to me was when she said, looking back, she wished she would have reached out and talked to a therapist – someone she could talk to about her feelings and diagnosis, without burdening her family.
And it’s not just for the person diagnosed; friends, family, and loved ones can also benefit from talking with a professional. After all, holding those emotions in doesn’t help. It hurts.
When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you, too, are greatly affected by the disease. You want to help. You want to make it go away. But it doesn’t have to fall squarely on your shoulders.
And if we are being honest, sometimes the best thing we can do for
our loved ones and ourselves is to seek the support of a therapist to get through the tough times – and be a listening ear when it’s needed most.
It’s easy to have your mental health take the back seat in these situations. But, you can’t separate your emotional and behavioral health from the physical.
Counseling can provide the hope you’ve been searching for when it comes to your recovery journey.
Remember, it’s OK to struggle with your diagnosis.
It’s OK to worry about your friends and loved ones.
It’s OK to not be OK. But you don’t have to go it alone.
Help is out there when you’re ready.