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Published on October 31, 2013

Distress is…Normal?

October 31, 2013

StressYes.  Distress is normal. Just hearing that should take away some of the sting that word conjures up.  Did you also know that being honest with yourself about distress can help you feel better and in turn, you get stronger? Let’s see how that works.

According to The National Comprehensive Cancer Society, distress is “an unpleasant emotional experience…feelings of vulnerability, sadness and fears to problems that become disabling such as depression, anxiety, panic, social isolation…” According to the American Cancer Society, “Everything about cancer is stressful, (But hey, no one has to tell you that right?), some distress is normal and can simply mean “expected.” It can even warn you when your distress level is getting too high and is becoming serious. Think about it, when you “expect” something you can be equipped and prepared with the tools you need to work it through.  Dr. Jimmie Holland at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York asks patients to “not suffer in silence. Don’t try to go it alone – get support.  You will likely cope better and take care of yourself better with [those] around you [who] can encourage and support you.”

Do yourself a huge favor: recognize distress for what it is – an often normal interference that needs, and often begs, for your attention. Every cancer patient suffers from distress at one time or another, making it a very common experience. To ignore it may only mean to prolong or worsen it. Start out by talking about it.  This is your first best tool.  Reach out.  The goal: to stay well and strong in mind, body and spirit.  You can do it! 

Vickie Peyton, MSW, LCSW
KishHealth System Cancer Center

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