In this fourth article on hypnosis for cancer patients we shall deal with the post-treatment period, which for many patients is much longer than the treatment period, and a much more difficult time. Once the cancer treatment is finished patients then undergo monitoring, usually on a two-month basis. While undergoing treatment the patient is extremely well looked after. One can almost become institutionalised and become very depended on the doctors, nurses and others who look after you. But once the chemotherapy or radiotherapy has finished it can feel like a sudden break, and one is left to one’s own devices. This is somewhat an unfair statement, because the Macmillan Cancer group play a very important supporting role during this period. Be this as it may, a lot depends on the individual and how they cope. Coping with side-effects. Coping with minor illness that portends a more serious return of the cancer. Coping with volatile energy periods. Coping with the possibility of the cancer returning (as mine has done!). Most of all, coping with one’s imagination and its tendency towards negativity.
Hypnotherapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness and many other therapies deal with coping strategies: coping strategies for bereavement; coping strategies for anger management, coping strategies for anxiety; etc. But there are no clear coping strategies for dealing with cancer – especially the post-treatment period. Coping strategies depend on the stressors that create the anxiety, but they also depend on the person’s personal resources for dealing with such stressors. These two aspects are important and need to be focused on: the stressors a person must face and the resources a person has for dealing with such stressors. We shall deal with both in this article.
It is difficult for the non-cancer patient to know what goes through the mind of a cancer patient. To some extent this is because the cancer patient does not want to reveal such thoughts because they can upset their close associates – in particular, family members and friends. But also, because they cannot, or find it difficult, to articulate what their thoughts actually are. All this leads to additional stress.
The post-treatment period also brings home that life will never be the same. It reveals very soon that life will be an on-going struggle to keep the cancer under control and to mentally deal with the on-going negative thoughts. Life-style choices need to be changed, holidays become a major issue of when, or if, they take place. The cancer patient can sometimes feel that they are not only dealing with their own thoughts and emotions, but are also dealing with those close to them. All these issues require coping strategies. The need to build one’s resilience; to strengthen one’s own inner resources and take some responsibility for life with the constant threat of cancer.