Sources of emotional help when you have advanced cancer
At times of stress and uncertainty, some people find it helpful to talk to someone outside their immediate circle of family and friends.
Counsellors are trained to listen and help people deal with difficult situations. They may be able to help you find your own solutions to the problems you’re facing. This can be very helpful, as cancer can affect many aspects of your life. Talking to someone who is supportive and not personally involved in your situation can also help those close to you.
Your GP or hospital doctor may be able to refer you to a counsellor. Or you may prefer to go to someone independent, away from where you are known. We can give you information about how to find counselling in your area.
Our Cancer Support Specialists can give you details of how to find counsellors in your local area or see our list of counselling organisations. We also have more information and a video about how counselling can help people affected by cancer.
However supportive your family and friends are, you may find it useful to spend some time with people who are going through a similar experience to you.
There are many support groups for people with cancer and their relatives. Most have been started by someone who felt the need to meet other people in a similar situation, and others are attached to hospitals. Some hospital cancer units or hospices have day centres or drop-in facilities for outpatients.
Groups offer support and friendship and it can be reassuring to talk over your worries with someone who has been through a similar experience. It can also help to meet people who have lived with their cancer for a long time and who enjoy life.
Not everyone feels comfortable in a group, and it’s important that you take note of your own needs and preferences. You know yourself better than anyone else.
Search our database of organisations to find a support group in your area.
Many people now get support through the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to share your experiences, ask questions and get and give advice.
You can share your experience, ask questions and get support from others through our Online Community.
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Some people find keeping a diary or journal helps them express their thoughts and feelings. Many people use complementary therapies, such as meditation, visualisation, relaxation, aromatherapy or a combination of these techniques, to help cope with cancer symptoms and to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. You can learn these from CDs or podcasts, or there may be local classes you can go to. Your GP or practice nurse may know of these, or of someone who could teach you in your home.
These are some of the techniques commonly used:
Relaxation involves learning to become aware of particular groups of muscles in your body and how to relax them. You can also use thoughts of space, heaviness or warmth in those areas. Once you have learnt how to do this, you can start using relaxation to reduce stress and tension.
Visualisation helps you to bring pleasant, relaxed pictures into your mind. Creating pictures and sounds in your mind that bring you pleasure can reduce stress and discomfort and allow you to feel calmer.
See our section on complementary therapies for more information and details of how to contact practitioners of these therapies.
Emotional distress can be reduced by the support of family, friends, self-help groups, counselling or some of the self-help techniques described above. However, sometimes feelings of anxiety and depression start to affect your ability to deal with everything that’s happening to you. In this case, your GP or hospital specialist may be able to prescribe antidepressants, anxiety-reducing drugs or sleeping pills. These can help you cope with your situation.
Our section on the emotional effects of cancer discusses the feelings and emotions you may be experiencing.