October 3, 2023

3 Tips to Help You Cope Mentally and Emotionally with Cancer

Dr. Vongtama

1. Avoid the Spiritual Bypass 


Spiritual Bypass is when you skip over emotions to find a "spiritual" reason for crappy things that happen. Note to self: That's not spiritual, that's just rationalization. The most spiritual thing you can do is to go THROUGH any unpleasant emotions (Especially sadness, loss, regret) and come out the other side. If you hear yourself saying, "Well, it could have been worse..." or "At least it wasn't...." in response to something sad, check to see if you're avoiding something.  


2. Accept the situation you find yourself in. No matter what. 


I see a lot of people right when they first get diagnosed. It’s a time full of emotions, denial, mourning. Sometimes the room is full of family, and everyone wants to know, "Is he/she going to die?" The room is full of tension, and surprisingly the only two people who aren't tense are me and the patient. When you know what's coming, many times there is a calmness. 


When I get that question, "How long does he have?"  I usually say with a wry smile, "You know, no one in this room makes it out alive." And then there's this release, this letting go, because the real truth is that we all are going to leave our bodies. It's just a matter of when.  Just observing the people around me, I realized that Americans don't really have a way to deal with death properly. We want to live forever, we don't talk about it, or we make fun of it. Acceptance is the real solution. 

3. Stop the Blame and Shame game.  

I was speaking with a counselor friend last week who said to me, "Now is not the time for blame. Right next to blame is shame. Both turn out badly."

Things are stressful when cancer is diagnosed. We can get at each others' throats. The unhealed things that we all shy away from are unavoidable when we are confronted with what seems to be life threatening. 


The easiest person to hold responsible for how we feel is the one next to us. The hardest one to hold responsible is ourselves. 


We have to give each other space, the room to make mistakes and not get creamed by each other. Then if your loved one screws up, and they apologize, we have to be able to say, it's ok, we're both doing the best we can.  The most spiritual thing you can do right now is to be kind when you don't feel like being kind. To be quiet when you want to yell.