Anxiety... An Unwelcome Visitor
I recently saw a study that found that lung cancer patients who do not have anxiety or depression live longer than those who do.1 I was surprised to find this information because I have always been told that attitude might make your remaining life happier, but it has no impact on how long you live.
So, what exactly is anxiety?
The Google dictionary defined it as "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome." Synonyms include angst, concern, apprehension, or fearfulness.
Since anxiety may shorten our lives, it might be worthwhile to explore a few ways that you might try in order to reduce any anxiety from which you might suffer. I recently listened to a webinar by Lung Cancer Alliance on dealing with anxiety that provided several suggestions.2
The first thing we need to recognize is that some anxiety will visit every one of us. How we deal with our visitor is what is important. We can either listen to him for a few minutes and then send him on back out the door ... or we can invite him in for a drink and meal and maybe even to stay the night or week. It is our choice!
I choose to show him the door pretty quickly. I want him to play as small a part in my life as possible.
How do I show anxiety the door? I think about what he has to say for a moment. And then I make a conscious decision to turn my mind away from whatever it is he is saying. I think happier thoughts - an upcoming trip, a good meal, a pleasant memory, a great friend, something nice someone did for me. Or I think about tasks I need to complete and maybe even get up and do them! If you can't turn your mind away from worry by yourself, try getting involved in a good book, a movie, or an electronic game or something - anything that takes your mind away from what is causing your anxiety.
Scanxiety and worry
I also keep in mind that worry or anxiety has never actually accomplished anything. I could worry about getting my next scan. But, does spending my time thinking about and fretting over what the scan is going to show change anything at all? No. That scan either is going to show that I am still unremarkable or it is going to show that my cancer has decided to spread or grow. It is going to show those results whether or not I spend a week or more worrying about the results.
Now, once I get the results, I can either rejoice or begin to contemplate what the next steps are going to be. I can actually take some action because I have the information I need to know how to proceed.
Other ways to control worry
Boris Krivitsky, DO, Board-certified in internal medicine and a Board-certified palliative medical consultant at the Carolinas Healthcare System Levine Cancer Institute, offers several interventions you might try to alleviate anxiety.2
Anxiety adversely affects quality of life
If none of the non-medical suggestions work to help you control your anxiety, be sure to tell your doctor. He or she can help you, either by suggesting other methods you can try or by prescribing medications designed to control anxiety and/or depression.
Dr. Krivitsky recommends that you discuss antidepressants with your doctor if you need medical help. He says that benzodiazepines should be used in only the severest of cases because it is easier to become addicted to these drugs and they often have worse side effects.2 Nevertheless, your doctor is always your best source for information.
The main thing is that you find a way to control your anxiety. It is bad for you mentally and it may also be bad for you physically if you let it go unchecked.
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?