Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is the beginning of an emotional journey with no rules. For some women, the early days of shock, anger, panic and numbness are the most frightening. Over time, these intense feelings of distress usually begin to ease. As time goes on, different emotions are likely to surface at different times. The phase of your treatment, your physical health and the way you have previously coped in difficult times will affect the way you feel. Your family, financial and work situations will also influence how you feel. The intensity and persistence of emotions varies greatly from one woman to another and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel.
Depression and anxiety are common feelings for many women. This may happen during your treatment or for some time after your treatment finishes. Seek medical advice if your feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression are persistent.
Working through your feelings
However you feel, try and acknowledge any strong emotions and allow yourself the opportunity to experience them. Don’t shut them out or put on a brave face – it is likely they will just keep simmering away. You may find sharing your concerns with a family member, a friend or a member of your healthcare team helpful. Saying something like ‘I am feeling really alone and afraid because …’ can help begin supportive conversations; whereas withdrawing from friends and family can leave them feeling unable to help.
Women sometimes report the friends they expected to be most supportive are not always the ones who end up being the most supportive. This does not necessarily mean they do not care. Certain friends and family may be better able to cope with what is happening for you and support you better than others. Support sometimes comes from unexpected places. Let your healthcare team know how you feel. They will want to help and if they know you are struggling, they can guide you towards support.
Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and fill you with joy. To me that is the essence of it. I think laughter is essential, I would suggest everyone gets a dog, undivided love 24/7, it works for me!"
Call Ovarian Cancer Australia on 1300 660 334 for further information about support groups and networks that can help you connect with other women in similar circumstances.
Where to get help
- Talk to your GP or cancer specialist about seeing a counsellor or psychologist. Sometimes, taking medication for a short while may help. Your hospital may provide you with access to counselling services or you may be eligible to get a rebate for sessions with a psychologist or counsellor through Medicare or private health insurance. Cancer Council 13 11 20 may also be able to offer you counselling, either face to face or on the phone.
- If you are having suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. You may also want to call the suicide call back service on 1300 659 467. They can provide counselling sessions via phone or online (suicidecallbackservice.org.au).
- The Cancer Council has a helpful and practical booklet, Emotions and cancer (www.cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20 for a free copy).
Spirituality is about your personal sense of purpose and peace, and your beliefs about the meaning of life.
There are different ways to express your spirituality. For many people, it is through their connection with other people, with nature, and possibly with a higher power. For some people, organised religion provides a way to express spirituality.
It is normal for a diagnosis of cancer to both intensify and cause upheaval in your spiritual life. You may want to talk to a chaplain, minister, priest, rabbi, Imam or other religious leader. Or you may want to explore your own ways of connecting more deeply with others and the world. This may include spending more time in nature, appreciating art and music, reading more widely about spiritual ideas, meditating, or writing in a journal.