Living with bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) is undoubtedly physically and emotionally taxing. I manage multiple appointments. Address your condition and your treatment tolls. And I worry about what the future holds.
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Mental health is often an afterthought when seeking treatment for one’s condition. According to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, 72% of his bile duct cancer patients say they’ve experienced symptoms of depression that make everyday life a little more difficult. About half of patients with bile duct cancer report symptoms of severe depression. Anxiety is also a common experience.
“It’s normal and natural to feel sad, scared, and worried when you’re dealing with cancer,” says Melissa Walt, PsyD, a clinical psychologist who specializes in cancer support. “I can’t stress enough how natural the response is. But some people, especially in the early stages, become obsessed with managing their physical health during cancer. , we also know that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we neglect our mental health.”
We spoke with Dr. Walt about the mental health aspects of living with bile duct cancer and strategies for caring for your mental health during and after treatment.
Feelings during cancer treatment
The impact of bile duct cancer on mental health depends on many factors and may increase or decrease over time.
“The emotional impact of bile duct cancer is continuum,” says Dr. Walt. “Everyone feels and reacts differently. It can be based on your prognosis, previous life experiences, coping methods you have used in the past, current support, financial situation, etc. React emotionally. .”
Here, Dr. Walt offers a glimpse into the mental health experiences some (but not all) may face while having bile duct cancer.
But it’s important to remember. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel when living with bile duct cancer. No two people experience or feel the same way he does.what you Feelings are valid and important.
When you are first diagnosed with bile duct cancer, your world is quickly filled with appointments, tests, and treatments. During these early days, emotions may be pushed aside as you focus on physical health instead.
“Especially in the early stages, your instincts may be ready to take care of your body when it’s first diagnosed: an examination and a meeting with an oncologist or surgeon,” says Dr. Walt. It is often later that they begin to identify their thoughts and feelings in relation to whatever they have experienced since their diagnosis.”
Dr. Walt’s Advice
It’s never too early to ask your health care team about available mental health services. You may be able to schedule treatment appointments and attend support groups at times and locations that coincide with other appointments. Even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to discuss it early,” says Dr. Walt.
As the diagnostic whirlwind subsides and you become more familiar with everyday life with bile duct cancer, the numbing effects of the early days may wear off. This can dig up a lot of emotions.
“After surgery, or establishing a radiation or chemotherapy routine, I often pause to think about how the cancer is affecting me emotionally, socially, and spiritually,” says Walt. says Dr. “It is during this time that we often hear from people about the effects of cancer on their mental health, and they feel ready to unleash and process their emotions.”
Common questions and concerns during bile duct treatment include:
- what does my future look like?
- How will my diagnosis affect my loved ones?
- How can I share my experiences and thoughts with friends and family?
Dr. Walt says it’s healthy and natural to feel sad, scared and worried when living with cancer. But if you don’t deal with these feelings properly, they can spiral out of control or even lead to bigger problems.
“What starts out as mild distress, for example, can turn into clinical depression,” adds Dr. Walt.
Patients with cholangiocarcinoma often face demanding treatment regimens. People who are clinically depressed may be less likely to participate in treatment. They are more likely to miss appointments or not adhere to medication regimens.
Dr. Walt’s Advice
If grief or anxiety persists, talk to your healthcare provider. Treatment and medication may be available.
If treatment prevents you from working or participating in your usual activities, focusing on small, manageable goals can help you feel accomplished. You may be wearing makeup. You may have received an email. Or complete a puzzle. “When he has at least one thing he looks forward to each day, it will give him a sense of purpose and bring happiness into his day-to-day life,” advises Dr. Walt.
After being diagnosed with cancer, what we look forward to is a chance to get back to life. Put the surgery and the nausea and fatigue in your rearview mirror and never look back.
According to Dr. Walt, even after aggressive treatment for bile duct cancer, some people are surprised to learn how severely cancer can affect them emotionally.
“For many people, thinking about cancer never stops,” says Dr. Walt. “The hard answer is that cancer will always be part of your life experience. It may take time to understand how to live with this chapter of your life, but it is a really important skill to learn. .”
Dr. Walt’s Advice
Aim to identify how your life has changed. “You may find that cancer gives you a unique perspective that you’ve never seen before,” she says.
You may become more empathetic to those who are suffering or who are suffering. You may find that you have a stronger bond with your family and friends. You may have become less concerned about the little things.
Strategies for caring for mental health
Just as there is no one right way to feel about the experience of bile duct cancer, there is also no one right way to manage those feelings.
“There is no manual that tells you how best to get over cancer and deal with all the emotions and challenges that come with it,” explains Dr. Walt. “Often, people with cholangiocarcinoma try to use the coping skills they used to manage past stress, only to find that those strategies don’t really address cancer.”
Here, Dr. Walt shares some strategies that may help:
1. Relaxation method
Meditation and focused breathing techniques calm the nerves and slow down the brain. By nurturing yourself over time and being present in the moment, you can stop the runaway thoughts that bring you anxiety and sadness.
Your library of smart devices is full of mental health apps to help you get started.
2. Complementary Care
Complementary medicine techniques are often used alongside conventional treatments to reduce anxiety and stress, improve fatigue, and provide other beneficial benefits.
These approaches include:
Talk with your healthcare provider about how these and other treatments work as part of your treatment plan.
Taking time out to feel good is an important part of overcoming the stress and worry of living with bile duct cancer. You are more than a cancer patient. A complete person with interests and relationships that can fill an emotional tank, so to speak. Making time for self-care means intentionally doing things that bring you joy, such as:
- Enjoy a delicious meal with friends and family.
- Relax in the bath or shower.
- read good books
- Sitting outside in nice weather.
4. Body care
OK, you already have a team of doctors looking after you. In addition to cancer treatment, however, taking steps to keep your body healthy can also boost your mood.
Dr. Walt suggests focusing on sleep, avoiding alcohol and other substances, eating healthy, and exercising as much as possible. I can’t. But you can feed your emotional well-being by taking thoughtful, small steps you can take.
It’s easy to feel lonely when living with bile duct cancer, but the truth is, you’re not alone.
“There’s support out there. You don’t have to go through this yourself,” says Dr. Walt.
Professional services such as therapists and other mental health professionals are available to help you navigate your emotional journey with cancer. You may be able to suggest support groups at cancer centers through religious groups and other organizations where you can find a community. There is also a media group.
The uncertainty of cholangiocarcinoma diagnosis and the rigors of treatment can take a toll on anyone’s mental health. In the midst of taking care of your body and all that it entails, remember that your thoughts and feelings are important to your overall well-being.
“Your mind and body are interconnected. They’re part of the same machine,” says Dr. Walt. “When one gets off track, it affects the other. Taking care of your mental health while you’re being treated for bile duct cancer can help keep the machine in top shape.”