Distress is pain and suffering of the body and mind. In this instance, we use the word distress to cover the emotions that patients may feel as they deal with cancer and its treatment. Distress is also common in the loved ones of people with cancer.
A certain amount of distress is normal. It's not unusual to be worried about what may happen to their bodies, how they will cope with cancer. They worry about the future, whether they will die and why they are experiencing cancer. Learning to talk about and cope with distress can help both the patient and their loved ones.
Talk about it
The first step toward coping with distress is talking to the cancer care team about how you feel. They can help you get help if you need it. At King's Daughters, our distress management program was created to assist you - and your family - through these powerful emotions.
Patients are screened for distress at diagnosis and re-evaluated within the treatment plan on regular intervals. Referrals can be made by at any time during the course of treatment or survivorship. Speak with your nurse navigator or oncologist if you feel your distress has reached a level that is too high. Signs can include:
- Feeling overwhelmed to the point of panic
- Being overcome by a sense of dread
- Feeling so sad that you think you can't go on with treatment
- Being more grouchy or irritable than usual
- Feeling unable to cope with pain, tiredness and nausea
- Trouble getting to sleep or early waking (less than 4 hours of sleep a night)
- Fuzzy thinking and memory problems
- Having a very hard time making decisions, even little ones
- Feeling hopeless -wondering if there is any point in going on
- Thinking about cancer and/or death all the time
- Questioning faith and religious beliefs that once gave you comfort
- Feeling worthless and useless