Cancer and emotions

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You may experience a range of emotions when diagnosed with cancer. Learn about some of the emotions you may feel and how you can deal with them.

Key points

  • Emotions can affect how your body feels, causing an upset stomach when you are worried, or making you feel stronger when you are happy.
  • It is normal to feel grief, whether you are grieving the loss of a part of your body, or something like your future plans, or something else.
  • If you think you may be feeling depressed, talk to your health-care team so they can get you treatment to help you feel better.
  • Everyone deals with emotions differently, but it is important to remember that sharing your feelings with others can help.

For more videos regarding teens and cancer, please visit the Teens Taking Charge Cancer playlist.

How does cancer affect emotions?

When you’re facing cancer it’s normal to feel a whole range of emotions. Like other teens, you may find that your emotions change frequently. You might feel hopeful, happy and silly one day and then scared, angry and sad the next. It can feel a bit like being on an emotional roller coaster.

Emotions can also affect how your body feels. For example, you may have an upset stomach when you are worried or sad. When you are really happy, you may find that your body feels stronger or you have more energy. Handling the emotions that come with cancer can be challenging, but your health-care team is there to support you.

Grief and loss

When you have cancer it is normal to feel grief. Grief is the feeling you get when you experience a sense of loss. There are many things you might lose or worry about losing because of cancer. You can feel grief for losing something concrete like your hair or a part of your body or something that’s not concrete like your future plans or the experiences you expected to have. You might lose comfortable routines or your place on a sports team, in a club or band. Or you might lose friendships or a boyfriend or girlfriend. You might lose confidence in yourself or in others. You may also feel grief over losing your independence – you may need to rely on others to help you during your treatment.

Dealing with loss is extremely difficult, but it is a normal part of having cancer. The best thing you can do is recognize the things that you can’t get back and allow yourself to feel grief and sadness. Giving yourself this time to grieve will help you eventually find comfort and hope in other things. Spending time reflecting on the things you will lose can also help you recognize the parts that you will get back, such as your hair or your independence, and help you look forward to that day.

Don’t forget that it is OK to cry. Crying is a natural reaction to sadness or frustration and the release can help you feel a bit better.

Grief and depression

If your feelings of grief or sadness last a long time and change how you think or what you do, they may be a sign of depression. Depression means sadness or grief that doesn’t go away and is getting in the way of living and enjoying life. You will learn more about cancer and depression the lifestyle section. If you think you may be feeling depressed, talk to your health-care team. Treatment is available for depression to help you feel better and find hope again.

Dealing with emotions

Everyone deals with emotions in different ways. Some people talk easily about their feelings while others are more private. You have a lot of control over how you deal with your emotions. Try to remember that keeping all your emotions inside can make it hard to focus on anything else. Sharing your feelings with others can help. You will learn ways to deal with emotions later on in this section.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019