Sometimes stress leaves a path as distinct as a hurricane. Its onset can usually be tracked from the moment cancer is diagnosed.
If someone asked you if you were feeling stressed, and if so, what were the symptoms, how would you describe your condition? Signs of stress vary, and may be cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioral. And often the symptoms overlap.
If we start with “cognitive” symptoms, we encounter difficulty concentrating, a negative approach to simple matters, anxious thoughts, excessive worrying, and unusual memory lapses. When I was first diagnosed, I felt as if I was in a stupor. A daze. I lived in fear that my impaired memory and brain function would be noticed by the people I was working with. I was sensitive to loud noises. As one guy I know put it: “I couldn’t exercise at my gym because they had 8 TVs playing different stations and music piped through the entire exercise floor. The amount of information overload was more than my brain could handle. Too much sound and light made me feel both angry and anxious.”
Emotional symptoms are fairly obvious: Moodiness, and irritability, short temper, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Some people have a sense of loneliness and isolation. Others feel a frightening loss of control. My stress made me feel paranoid. I took things personally that had nothing to do with me. I found myself overly sensitive to the criticism of other people.
If someone didn’t respond to a text or call me back immediately, I assumed they didn’t want to interact with me and didn’t want to be my friend. If someone didn’t smile or say “Hi” as I walked by I took it personally and began to analyze what I did wrong. I kept all my friends at arm’s length because of an inordinate fear of being rejected or not included.
Physical symptoms from stress are also very common. They vary from person to person and run the whole range:
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds
- Loss of sex drive (whatever was left of it)
- Low blood sugar
- Nausea, dizziness
Behavioral symptoms present in a variety of ways, again depending on personality type. They would include irregular eating habits and sleep habits, neglecting responsibilities, isolating oneself. You can probably come up with other aspects of the “hurricane.” Just know that you are not going crazy, that the symptoms you are experiencing are normal for anyone after a diagnosis of prostate cancer, and that with proper counseling stress can be eased. Whether you choose to attend a Support Group, work with a therapist, find solace with prayer and meditation, or try Relaxation Therapy, it is important to do something to master your stress so that you can continue to manage your everyday life as well as make the right decisions to fight the cancer.