Coping with cancer can be difficult. Help and support are available. There are things you can do, people to help and ways to cope with a diagnosis of oesophageal cancer.
You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:
- frightened and uncertain
- angry and resentful
You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.
Experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.
You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.
Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.
Ask your doctors and nurse specialists to explain things again if you need them to.
Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.
You can also do practical things such as:
- making lists to help you
- having a calendar with all appointments
- having goals
- planning enjoyable things around weeks that might be trickier than others
Talking to other people
Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation or be afraid they will say the wrong thing.
It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.
Help your family and friends by letting them know if you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.
You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.
Who can help?
Specialist nurses can help if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information.
Dietitians can help you with any eating problems you have. These might include difficulty eating or swallowing.
Support groups, such as the Oesophageal Patients Association (OPA) offer information and support. Website: http://www.opa.org.uk/ Tel: 0121 704 9860
Oesophageal cancer and its treatments are likely to cause physical changes in your body. These might affect the way you feel about yourself.
Changes such as weight and hair loss can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to other people. Your dietitian can help you maintain your weight and your nurse can help you look at ways to cope with hair loss.
Tiredness and feeling lethargic a lot of the time is common during treatment and for some months afterwards. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help.
Oesophageal cancer and its treatment can make it more difficult for you to eat and swallow.
Relationships and sex
The physical and emotional changes you have might affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.
You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:
- money matters
- financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
- work issues
- Blue Badge applications
- help with travel costs
- changes to your house
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.
Our coping practically section has more information about all these issues.