Emotional Support

Experiencing a range of different emotions

If you are diagnosed with bladder cancer, it is very common to experience a range of different emotions and feelings about your diagnosis.1-3 Many people have different emotions that can come and go over time, as they transition through the stages of diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. It is important to remember that every patient’s experience with bladder cancer is unique, and everyone deals with the emotional challenges in different ways. There is no “wrong” way to feel about having cancer.

It is not uncommon for patients diagnosed and treated for cancer to experience mood changes and to go through some periods when they feel anxious or depressed. Other common emotions experienced by patients with bladder cancer include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or confused
  • Feeling shocked or numb
  • Feeling stressed
  • Feeling angry or resentful
  • Feeling afraid or frightened
  • Feeling worried
  • Feeling hopeful
  • Feeling guilty

After being treated for bladder cancer, many patients find that their feelings about survivorship are complex. Bladder cancer survivors may feel relieved, excited, and happy that the treatment is completed, with a greater appreciation of life and their loved ones. However, others may feel anxious or stressed that the cancer will come back and find it difficult to cope with the challenges of life and with the physical and emotional effects of treatment going forward. Many survivors experience a mixture of several of these types of emotions.

Tips for coping and finding emotional support

There are many strategies that bladder cancer survivors can use to help cope with their emotions.1-3 A first helpful step is to understand the challenges that you are facing. Seeking out more information about your diagnosis and treatment can make it easier to make decisions and prepare for the journey ahead. Some people may feel overwhelmed by all the information they are receiving from their healthcare providers, especially just after diagnosis. You should feel confident in asking your healthcare providers to explain things to you again, or in a different, sometimes simpler, way. Some people find it helpful to have a family member or friend accompany them to an appointment so that they can help absorb and record the information. Others find it helpful to prepare a list of questions and concerns in advance before meeting with their healthcare providers. Patients who feel fully informed about their diagnosis and treatment options often feel more able to clearly think through solutions and feel more comfortable and confident in the course of action that they choose.

Reaching out

One of the best strategies for coping is for patients to express and talk about how they are feeling. Many patients find it helpful to talk about their emotions with friends and family as their main source of emotional support. However, some patients prefer to find support from people other than friends and family. You should also feel comfortable reaching out to the healthcare providers on your cancer care team about the emotions that you are feeling, especially if you are having trouble coping with them. Your healthcare providers can provide support and resources to help. For example, some people find that online or in-person support groups allow them to connect with other bladder cancer patients who are experiencing similar emotions and challenges. Others find that individual counseling is helpful in developing strategies for coping with emotions. Patients who do not feel comfortable talking about their feelings with other people may find it helpful to write them down.

Allowing yourself to experience your emotions

Another strategy for coping is to try to focus on the positive instead of the negative, for example, by focusing on staying as healthy as possible. However, you should not feel pressure to be positive and upbeat all the time, especially if that is not how you are really feeling. Taking some time to experience the more negative feelings can sometimes help to make it easier to focus on the positive on other days. Many people who have cancer often feel a loss of control in their lives, which can be helped by focusing on what you can control, such as being actively involved in your treatment plan and setting a daily schedule.

Doing things you enjoy

To cope with your emotions, it can also be very helpful to spend time doing activities you enjoy and finding ways to relax when you are feeling overwhelmed. Physical activity can improve emotional health for many people, so talk with your healthcare providers about ways that you can incorporate a safe routine of light exercise into your daily routine.

Written by Anna Nicholson | Last review date: September 2017.
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