A diagnosis of cancer is undoubtedly a trigger for a lot of emotions and a very stressful situation to deal with. Everybody reacts in their own way. Shock, fear of death, worry about the outcome, concern for our beloved, panic, despair, anger towards this invader, self-pity… there isn’t a right or wrong way to feel about having cancer.
Amongst all of these emotions I imagine everybody who has been diagnosed with cancer must have felt fearful.
Fear is a survival mechanism triggered by a perceived threat. Hormones are released, which speed up the body functions that are involved in preparing the body for a fight or flight response (the heart beats faster, breathing gets faster, muscles contract, eyesight gets sharpened). On the other hand the body functions not needed for survival are inhibited: the digestive system, tear production or salivation. The part of the brain that runs this response is called the amygdala. The amygdala can’t tell the difference between stress and fear so stressful situations are interpreted as a threat by the amygdala and trigger the fight or flight response as well.
The physical effects of stress are multiple: just a few examples are a thumping heart, sweating, shaking, tiredness, altered breathing patterns, pains and even low self-esteem and reduced libido.
Consequences of living with long term fear are a weaker immune system, cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems, decreased fertility, fatigue, depression, accelerated ageing, premature death, damage of certain parts of the brain, impaired formation of long term memories. Social life can be affected as well, as the processes in our brain that regulate emotions are interrupted, while the ability to read non-verbal communication, reflect before acting and act ethically is diminished. This impacts our thinking and decision making. The consequences are intense emotions and impulsive reactions.
Having cancer is likely to cause very stressful times but even stress and high levels of anxiety can lead to cancer. People with a high level of anxiety are 25% more likely to have abnormal cells that might become cancer.
People are often unaware that their physical symptoms are caused by stress or fear, and even less aware of the long term impact of these emotions on their bodies. This is why it’s fundamental taking care of ourselves by reaching peace of mind and harmony.
They will lift you up when in despair and give you a kick when tired. Generally they will reduce or eliminate the impact and consequences stated above, by bringing back harmony
and balance wherever it was lost. They will quietly accompany you and help you to find serenity and positive thoughts in your journey towards recovery.