Protecting my Mental Health
Last updated: May 2023
I have stage IV ALK-positive lung cancer with brain mets. Anyone affected by late-stage lung cancer faces symptoms of depression or a mental struggle. I have realized since my diagnosis that I am not immune to depression. It is my goal to find ways to protect my mental health.
My focus is not only on my physical needs but my mental well-being as well. There is the challenge of recognizing the symptoms since my mind concentrates on treatment and other medical issues. However, it is vital for me to acknowledge, accept, and ask for help in coping with the common symptoms if needed.
The effect of cancer on my mental health
Mental numbness was evident at my diagnosis. Imagine hearing the words "It is lung cancer." I was not angry, sad, or anything else at that moment. My emotions were out of me. Unlike brain fog, I could still function. The mental shutdown, so they say, was my survival instinct.
The persistent feeling of sadness can come and go. I have felt this emotion since my diagnosis and throughout my cancer treatment. Simply said, there are physical and mental changes that set in so fast, right before my eyes. I feel bad that my body is taking in the toxicity of my treatment. It is normal to feel sad, but not for a long time.
Seeing others struggle
Moreover, it makes me sad hearing fellow survivors struggle to access treatment or having no other treatment options. This leads to patients that are deprived of one, living longer, and two, an improved quality of life. Until I am not breathing, I will use my small voice to advocate for lung cancer.
Physiological impacts: where's my sense of taste?
There are lung cancer treatment side effects or symptoms that steal your good appetite. This can be due to difficulty of chewing or swallowing. Sometimes the treatment causes nausea or vomiting making difficulty to eat food.
In my case, my TKI affects my taste buds. I eat unsweetened apple sauce to clean my palette right away after taking my TKIs. This means I can still appreciate the normal taste of food. A healthy tummy leads to a good mind.
Other TKI side effects
My oncologist said I'm taking TKI because I have a biomarker called ALK-positive. Further, he said the common side effects of TKI include tiredness, weakness, and muscle pain. I felt them on and off. A great reminder for myself that there are side effects. They are all are part of my treatment process. Acceptance relieves me from being anxious.
Combating another mental health side effect that comes with cancer: stress
Living with lung cancer can create extreme stress. This can increase difficulty of falling asleep or getting enough sleep. There are phone apps for reading or games or music that divert my mind out of it. They help me fall asleep easier. Yoga before bedtime is another thing that can avoid disruption in my sleep. A good sleep gives more energy throughout the day.
For as long as I am aware depression knocks like a flickering switch, my focus throughout my lung cancer journey is to nurture my mental health. It does not have to rob my joy. I am here on earth together with a chance to live every moment.
Beside manner matters! What has your experience been?