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Living with kidney cancer; managing the emotions and feelings

Anyone can have mental health issues; many people do. There are a wide range of emotions and mental health issues and people with, or without, kidney cancer can experience them. However, receiving a kidney cancer diagnosis and the treatment that follows is a very stressful event.

Living with kidney cancer or recovering from surgery is an emotional journey. Some days you may feel that you are recovering well, but other days may be a struggle, leaving you feeling low. After the regular contact of treatment, it’s not unusual to feel isolated and lonely.  Caring and loving a friend or family member who is dealing with kidney cancer can also be very difficult. No one chooses this to happen to them; all that they can do is go through the medical process and do what needs to be done to get better.

Stressful events can take a toll on anyone’s mental health, making existing mental health problems worse or leading to the development of anxiety and depression. This article aims to discuss ways in which you can deal with the stress of having kidney cancer and avoid mental health issues. Some people may have already developed coping mechanisms that work really well, we would love for you to share them with us.

Talking about your feelings.

It is likely that most people will have ups and downs during their kidney cancer treatment and will need someone’s support.  People providing support might be; close family or friends, nursing staff, a charity Careline, your local knitting group, or a friend that you go to the gym with. It could even be your pets, a stranger in the street that is a good listener, or all of the above. Talking about your feelings can help you cope with stressful events. Equally, sometimes people don’t want to be seen as an ill person, they might want to keep quiet and pretend that it’s not happening. It is a very personal thing. However, it is important to know that support is out there, if it is needed.

Sharing experiences with others who have kidney cancer is invaluable

The ‘closed Facebook group’ that Kidney Cancer UK hosts can be invaluable for the people sharing their experiences; asking for help or learning things from the discussions. As everyone discussing issues and feelings is going through a similar situation, the group can be an extremely useful source of information for each other.  Sharing experiences via the Facebook group, or via videos on our website, enables people to know that other people are going through the same thing as them. Nobody is alone. Helping others can be very useful for improving your own mental health. Search for “Kidney Cancer UK Support group” within Facebook to find us.

Is there anything I can do to improve my mental health and cope with having kidney cancer?

There are a vast number of suggestions of things to do if you need to improve your mood, or deal with difficult situations. I have tried many myself. Some work really well for me and to be honest other things slightly annoy me. Everyone is different, so experiment with what might feel right for you. Exercise (aerobics, ballroom dancing and running) and creating something (knitting, sewing, crochet, and painting) work really well for me. Things that need concentration and take my mind off of everything. Other examples include yoga, going down the pub, writing a journal, walking outside in the fresh air, medication apps, baking, watching football. Many of these things involve you being present in the moment, enabling you to take your mind to places where the kidney cancer treatment doesn’t exist. It is important to try and take time to do things that you enjoy. If you feel able to, continue with what you want to do. Try not to let kidney cancer stop you.

Look after yourself

It is important to look after yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. Eating a sensible diet with plenty of fresh healthy food can make a difference to how you feel. This can be difficult if you are dealing with the side-effects of advanced kidney cancer drugs, but it can help supply your brain with the nutrients it needs. As can providing your body with the right kind of fluids. Alcohol is known to affect moods, some people can drink too much in times of stress. In the long term drinking large amounts is likely to have a negative effect on your mental and general health and is best avoided.

Exercise can have a very positive effect on mental health. Not only does it increase mood boosting chemicals in your brain but it often provides you with social interaction, a sense of achievement, improved self-esteem and events that can take your mind off kidney cancer. There are a variety of ways to fit exercise or daily physical activity into your life and it is worth finding out what suits you.

Life after cancer

Everyone will deal with cancer differently. Some people cope by throwing themselves into the routine nature of cancer treatment. Discussing your thoughts and feelings with health professionals at hospital is important. However, once the treatment is over, or decreases in frequency, sometimes it can actually become more difficult to deal with your emotions and what you have just been through. Make sure you speak to people if you need to at this stage. Health professionals are always there for you and we are here at the end of the Careline phone if you need us.

We are here to help you.

We hope this article has been useful to highlight mental health issues for people with kidney cancer and their loved ones. If you need someone to talk to please do contact us via our Careline on 0800 002 9002 between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday to Friday, 10 am and 6 pm on Wednesday and 4 pm – 6 pm at the weekend. Outside these hours, please leave a message and we will call you back as soon as possible.

The issues and suggestions raised in this article are not intended to make you reflect negatively upon how you feel or the lifestyle you lead. We completely understand that this is a difficult time for you. However, if you do feel like you need to reflect on how you are coping and feeling we hope that the suggestions within this article are a good starting point. Also never hesitate to contact your health professionals if you or your loved ones need help with mental health issues.

Recommend support sites: Mind 

By Dr Rebecca Case-Upton BSc (Hons), PhD
Kidney Cancer UK – Medical Publications