Living with uncertainty
Living with uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges for people living with blood cancer. Clinical Psychologist Lynda Katona shares some helpful tips.
Those things in life we thought we could confidently predict and look forward to become uncertain. You may stop planning to do things because you don’t want to disappoint others or yourself. As a result you risk becoming isolated and depressed.
How can you learn to live with uncertainty?
There isn’t one easy answer to this question, but there are some things you can do that can help:
- Look after yourself physically – aim for a balanced, healthy diet and get regular exercise within your capability.
- Acknowledge the changes and losses that have come from your illness. While it is helpful to have an overall positive perspective, it is important to acknowledge the difficult feelings.
- Family and friends often want to help so let them know what is most helpful to you. It might be practical support like driving you to appointments or making a meal or even just listening to you when you’ve had a down day.
- Remind yourself of the things you still have control over. While you need to accept the things you can’t control, such as the course of your illness, it is important to remember you can choose things like what you wear and eat.
“Don’t be defined by your illness. It is part of your life and who you are but it is not all of you.”
- Establishing a daily/weekly routine can help you to feel more in control and give you a sense of purpose.
- Be realistic about what you can do considering your energy levels. You may not be able to do all the things you used to do prior to diagnosis; don’t beat yourself up.
- Engaging in daily relaxing or meditation exercises can help you feel relaxed and manage anxiety, pain and help you to sleep.
- If you have spiritual beliefs, connecting with them and a spiritual community can be a source of comfort and support.
- Keep your thinking balanced – don’t be unrealistically positive, but don’t be unrealistically negative.
- Laughter can be good medicine, stay in touch with your sense of humour.
- Reconsider your priorities, put your time and energy into people and activities that are really important to you.
- Focus on the here and now rather than getting caught up with past regrets or fears for the future.
Blood cancer support
If you need help dealing with your illness, the Leukaemia Foundation also offers emotional support including patient education seminars such as the one held in Cairns today on living with uncertainty.
You can also consider seeing a psychologist or counsellor.
Lynda Katona is a Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years experience, She worked for ten years in the oncology service at the Alfred and has a particular interest in patients with blood cancers and those undergoing stem cell transplant.