Getting Support for Fears of Recurrence
Talking about your fears will help you process them. Still, you may struggle to find someone you feel comfortable sharing your fears with. Some people prefer talking with someone in their personal life, like a family member or close friend. Others prefer talking to a professional in talk therapy sessions.
Talking with Family, Friends or AcquaintancesTry starting conversations with friends and family members to assess how comfortable they feel sharing with you. Follow your instincts about their feelings.
Depending on the personalities of your supporters and your own needs, you may benefit from sharing your feelings with more than one person. Consider talking with one person about your follow-up testing concerns. You can ask this person to come with you to your appointments to help you manage your anxiety. Another person could help you cope with feelings that arise from fear triggers.
You may worry that you will burden others by bringing up such a serious, personal and possibly upsetting subject. But remember that most of your loved ones really want to help you, even though they might not know what to do. Whether you just want someone to listen or you need active support, provide a clear statement of what you need.
Six Ways to Start a Conversation About Your Feelings
- “I am feeling better physically, but I’m afraid my cancer will return. Sometimes I feel like no one wants to hear that I’m not completely better, but I need to talk about my concerns.”
- “I’m worried that my fears about cancer returning are affecting my mood and my relationship with you.”
- “All the follow-up tests and appointments make me anxious. It would be helpful if you would talk with me about my worries and go with me to some of my appointments.”
- “I’m approaching my (month, year) anniversary (or any occasion), and because it is reminding me of everything I went through, I may need some extra support.”
- “Cancer commercials on TV and pink products in stores just make me worry more about cancer returning. Since you went through cancer with me, do these things bother you too?”
- “Do you ever worry that the cancer could return?”
Reaching Out to Others Talking with others who understand what you’re going through can be very helpful. Often, one-on-one conversation can support and validate your feelings. Many women share your fears and talking helps to process them.
Online SupportFinding online support groups, message boards, or discussion groups helps you to control the information you receive. You can choose to avoid interactions that could make you sad or uncomfortable, while finding spaces to share your feelings with others.
Although online support groups are a great source of support, make sure you check any medical information you get before changing your treatment decisions. Print out what you learn and show it to your healthcare provider.
Talking With a Mental Health ProviderA mental health provider can help you and your family find ways to identify, manage and communicate your fears.
If you don’t already see a professional, talk about your feelings with your primary care doctor, oncologist, nurse, social worker, or other members of your treatment team. They can advise you about the possible benefits of talking to a mental health professional. You can also find a mental health provider on your own.
It’s important to find someone who specializes in people with cancer. Your hospital or cancer center may be able to help you. You might even find one available where you get medical care. Other women with breast cancer are also great resources for recommendations.
If your feelings interfere with your daily routine, affect your sleep or eating habits or keep you from doing things you used to enjoy, you should talk with a mental health provider. You may have an anxiety or depressive disorder. These conditions can be treated with talk therapy or medicines.
Support Groups and AlternativesConsider joining a support group or ask a social worker to help you form one with others who share your concerns. Find a group who take part in activities or have lunch together.
The tone of and the topics discussed at these support groups vary. Some groups are an open forum for everyone to share feelings and questions, while other groups offer education as well as sharing and support.
Groups can be “open” for you to drop in when you want to participate. Others are “closed,” where you sign up for a specific number of weeks and work with the same facilitator and group of people. The makeup of groups also varies—some are made up of women with breast cancer, some vary by cancer type or stage and some incorporate friends and family members. Select the format that feels best to you and meets your needs.
Try a couple of groups if you want. Find them by calling your local hospital, cancer center, or place of worship. If you attend a group, you don’t have to talk or share. You can start out just listening to see if this type of support works for you. Before you start looking, think about what kind of group might meet your needs. Will you be scared if someone in your group has stage IV breast cancer? If you would, then try seeking out an early-stage group.
Support groups are not for everyone. If you are uncomfortable sharing your feelings, or your fears resurface when listening to others, avoid these groups and speak with someone privately.