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Everybody Has a Story: The Good, Bad, Beautiful, and Ugly of Cancer

May 17, 2024

Cancer patients tell their stories their way – the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. These stories capture how patients feel about themselves and their bodies during and after treatment, often with words like “strong,” “changed,” “exhausted,” “capable,” and “powerful.”

Through patient storytelling, sharing perceptions on cancer and mental health, and highlighting mental and emotional health resources, Texas Oncology hopes to spark a conversation that brings greater understanding and validation to the physical, mental, and emotional experience of all cancer patients.

EveryBody Has a Story

The physical changes many cancer patients experience can impact their body image and mental health, and patients may often feel isolated or alone.

To better understand these impacts, Texas Oncology surveyed current and former cancer patients and found a significant link between physical and emotional well-being.

Respondents shared insightful and profound thoughts about what they experienced on their cancer journey. Many expressed how all-encompassing the effects of navigating cancer are on their physical, mental and emotional health, with one stating, “I wish more people knew that everything doesn’t just go back to normal after our treatments are finished.”

Among survey participants:

  • 70% said the physical changes they experienced during cancer treatment had a negative effect on their mental health.
  • More respondents felt unprepared (43%) than prepared (39%) to deal with the physical side effects of their treatment.
  • A majority (56%) felt unprepared to deal with the mental side effects, and just 26% felt prepared. 
  • Only 33% sought resources to help with the physical side effects of their treatments, and even fewer (25%) sought resources to manage mental side effects.
Tools and Strategies for Self-Care

Clinicians know the toll cancer treatment can take on all aspects of health and well-being, which is why Texas Oncology’s social work team often meets with patients in clinic to provide tools and strategies to help them manage stress and anxiety. While these services can be a vital tool in coping with the challenges of treatment, not all clinics have capacity to provide support services, and some patients may be uncomfortable seeking mental health resources.

To improve access as part of the organization’s goal to treat the whole patient, not just the disease, the social work team has created a series of guided meditations and downloadable journal prompts to help patients at every stage of their journey, regardless of where they are treated.

Guided Meditations

From feelings of anxiety and depression to fear about the symptoms and side effects of treatment — a patient’s experience can feel like an emotional roller coaster.

Meditation, often used alongside standard treatment, may offer patients a form of relief while navigating the challenges of cancer. This integrative approach addresses the body, mind, and spirit, with an emphasis on treating the whole person.

Easy to integrate into a self-care routine, Texas Oncology’s guided meditations are designed to help everyone feel supported and reassured throughout their cancer experience with just a few minutes of mindfulness. Click here to listen to the series and share with a loved one who has been impacted by cancer.

Journal Prompts

The word “cancer” can elicit a whole host of emotions — fear, sadness, anger, anxiety, and grief. When and how someone processes their emotions is important.

The practice of journaling can offer patients a safe, private space to capture and reminisce on any thoughts, feelings, challenges, and milestones they may experience. There is no right or wrong way — the simple act of writing can be transformative for anyone managing the mental and emotional impact of cancer.

Don’t know where to begin? Texas Oncology offers a bundle of journal prompts to help guide personal in-depth reflections on a variety of mental health and cancer topics. Click the downloadable PDFs to begin journaling about your or a loved one’s experience.

And as always, if you or anyone affected by cancer is struggling with self-acceptance or other negative thoughts, feelings, or emotions, reach out to your physician or care team for help.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.