Emotional Stages of Cancer
Cancer is a disease that can be expressed as physically and emotionally difficult for both patients and their relatives. It dramatically affects not only one’s physical health, but also one’s emotions. One of humanity’s greatest fears is death. We hardly remember this fact until we are confronted with a fatal accident or illness. Despite the technological developments and advancing methods used primarily in the field of health today, cancer is still associated with feelings of death, pain, and suffering. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they may reveal feelings they never knew before and were not used to dealing with. The person’s joy of life and perspective towards life may disappear, leaving their place to the feeling of being turned upside down.
In short, the first encounter with cancer can make an individual’s life very complicated. While people diagnosed with cancer thinks of themself as healthy individuals, people suddenly learn that they are “sick people,” and accepting this may not always be so easy for both themself and those around them. This confrontation has been expressed many times by psychologists and psychiatrists. Elisabeth Kübler-Ros, a Swiss-American psychiatrist, made the most prominent definition. Ross collected her experience with more than 200 people with life-threatening diseases in his book “On Death and Dying.” Based on the mood and grief of the patients, Ross divides the stages of the disease into five parts: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are common to all patients diagnosed with a terminal illness, and few have observed changes in their sequence.
When the individual learns that they have cancer and become “a patient,” their first reaction is mostly denial. Confusion, inability to understand what is happening and the need to confirm the diagnosis also occurs. They may think that the doctor is cheating on them and that it is not actually cancer. Until they get used to this situation and are convinced, the patient probably goes to other doctors and tries to prove to himself that this situation is not actually happening.
After the denial phase, patients usually enter the anger phase. If the patient’s family does not have a history of cancer (a genetic predisposition), people do not like to have cancer and think it will never happen to them. Because there is no other cancer in his family, they never think about the possibility of it happening to them. They find themselves constantly asking themselves these questions: “why me?” This irritable mood continues as patients become angry with the people around them, show anger, blame them, and even envy healthy individuals.
After the cancer diagnosis, patients stop fighting and gradually accept their situation. People have cancer and start looking for reasons that may cause this situation in their lives. It faces possible factors such as smoking, an extremely stressful life, and the use of bad habits that threaten human health. They believe that they will get rid of cancer when he eliminates these factors (ex. if I quit smoking, I will beat cancer, by reducing alcohol, I will destroy this problem, etc.). This period may facilitate full and honest acceptance of the illness. Patients may become ready to accept the most appropriate treatment option.
After all these stages, patients may feel themself in a depressive mode because this whole process they went through may have forced the patient mentally. However, with each passing day, the number of cancer cells in the body increases, and the person’s immune system weakens. Patients may not be able to find the strength to do many things they used to do alone. Since they have become weak, they may have to ask for support from those around them, even for simple things. This can make them feel helpless and alone. If they accepted treatment or had an operation, the treatment method may have caused some changes in their appearance. Therefore, patients may find themselves in despair and helplessness.
Illness creates a good field of experience in teaching people to be patient. After all the emotions passed through, people now learn to control their reactions. There is no longer any point in fighting with oneself or anyone else or denying something that has happened. People identify their illness and the situation they are in more and more and no longer feel uncomfortable with the opinions of those around them or asking for support. It also leaves the feeling of helplessness. By accepting the situation, they aim to live through it as best as they can. They can perceive every event they experience as “an awakening” against life and can learn lessons for themselves. They focus on enjoying every moment of life as they get rid of all their fears and negative aspects. They embrace what brings their joy. Maybe they can communicate with patients who have the same problem as them. They may want to closely follow developments related to the disease and other patients experiencing similar processes. May be enthusiastic and curious about researching new treatment methods. They can transform the processes they go through into situations that can help others.