Dealing with cancer requires support beyond the physical treatment.
Some articles of the Daily Express (08/08/19, page 7) refer the cases of two TV personalities affected by cancer. One is the BBC newsreader Jane Hill, the other is the Casualty actress Amanda Mealing. In the two cases there is an overview of their experience with breast cancer and its treatment.
The interview with Ms Mealing goes a little bit further. This interview accounts for her post diagnosis and after treatment evolution, emphasising the similarities of cancer with the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) condition faced by her character in Casualty.
Some people who may not have had a direct experience of cancer may not recognise the substantial life impact that cancer involves. Despite of the fact that recent campaigns have made clearer to TV viewers the destabilising reality of cancer, there are still too many people who cannot understand it.
It is quite common to find patients who struggle with bosses and institutions which notwithstanding the general and formal pronouncements, still have neither the mechanisms nor the compassionate practical ground to support their workers and employees affected by cancer.
The understanding of the trauma caused by cancer is still limited. As described by Ms Mealing, patients tend to rush back to work as soon as possible. This behaviour obeys to the fact that they are concerned about losing their jobs, but also because patients are anxious to regain some level of “normality” after their traumatic experience. However, as the article makes evident, the impact of cancer is deeper and longer lasting than the case of other illnesses. The impact of cancer may last for many years, and in a great number of cases, it never disappears.
Besides the number of patients who have to live with cancer throughout the rest of their lives (either because it cannot be “cleared” with treatment or because the cancer is at a pre-terminal or terminal stage), most cancer patients have the concern and emotional impact of cancer well after the physical treatment of the illness has finished.
Cancer patients usually continue to be under treatment and tests over a number of years. Patients carry the impact of the treatment on their body, including surgery and other substantial changes to their health and functionality. They also are rightly encouraged to remain vigilant for eventual symptoms which may indicate that the illness has come back later in life.
This heavy physical burden is always accompanied by what could be substantial changes to the emotional and cognitive self which in the majority of cases is not treated with the same urgency and deep concern that the treatment dedicated to the body.
Patients, caregivers, medical teams, employers and the government must all become more aware of the magnitude of the emotional impact of cancer. They all need to support and encourage additional alternatives which can assist the whole of society to deal and overcome the impact of an illness that is so common among human beings nowadays.
It is good that technological advance is helping in finessing both diagnosis and treatment of cancer. It will be even better to acknowledge the other consequences that are affecting people as a result of the illness. Supporting and helping people affected by cancer with coaching and therapy is as necessary as the medical treatment. Specialist coaching and therapy help the recovery of the patients, help with the effectiveness of the medical treatment, help with the adaptation of the patient to their new conditions, and may empower people who want to regain control of their life after a trauma.
People who can successfully deal with their new life is always more productive and efficient at work and in their family circle. They can also become better adjusted and functionally balanced in their own lives. Therefore, they are better for society in a very big way.
Let us advocate and put pressure on people and institutions to get further structures that support people affected by cancer. This is a need for humanity, not a luxury.