Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer affecting thousands in the United States each year. In 2021, the American Cancer Society reported 106,110 new skin cancer diagnoses in the country, indicating significant growth rates compared to previous years.
Skin cancer can trigger a rollercoaster of emotions, as individuals come to terms with the reality of their diagnosis and the uncertainty lying ahead. Moreover, the emotional impact of melanoma extends beyond the patient, affecting their family and support network, who also feel the heavy burden of such a devastating diagnosis.
The Struggles of Living with Melanoma
People diagnosed with melanoma commonly experience the following:
- Shock and disbelief. As with any cancer, being diagnosed with melanoma can be shocking, leaving individuals feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
- Fear and anxiety. Fearing the worst, such as melanoma’s potential to spread, can trigger anxiety and make it challenging to focus on anything else.
- Emotional toll. Aside from the above reactions, melanoma can spur feelings of sadness, anger, and hopelessness. It can also create an unhealthy sense of isolation, as the patient may feel like they are the only one going through this difficult experience.
- Treatment side effects. Conventional cancer treatments for melanoma, including invasive surgical procedures that may result in scars or disfigurement, can cause physical and mental discomfort. Chemotherapy for melanoma can also induce chronic fatigue, hair loss, nausea, and vomiting, among other side effects.
- Financial burden. As mentioned in a previous article, the cost of cancer treatment in developed countries like the US can financially strain patients and their families.
Despite these challenges, many individuals with melanoma find ways to cope and navigate the complexities of their diagnosis. Let’s discuss each of these coping strategies below.
How to Cope with a Melanoma Diagnosis
Hearing a doctor say, “You have melanoma,” can be tough to process. These coping mechanisms may help you overcome the wave of emotions, providing the strength and determination to fight back against skin cancer:
- Seek support. It’s important to focus on ways you can maintain emotional wellness throughout your treatment journey. Reaching out to friends and family or joining a cancer support group to find solidarity amongst fellow cancer patients and survivors can open up gateways for establishing strong support systems.
- Continue learning. Knowing and understanding as much as possible about melanoma may empower you throughout treatments and mitigate unnecessary fears and worries. For example, did you know localized melanoma has a 99 percent survival rate? Though this disease can become life-threatening, survivorship is within reach through early detection and treatment.
- Practice self-care. Taking good care of yourself while in treatment is necessary for protecting your mental health and improving your quality of life. Continue your skincare routine, eat a well-balanced diet, practice gratitude, etc. Self-care does not need to be expensive or exhaustive.
- Be optimistic. Being positive can help you cope with melanoma, but it is easier said than done. Our article, The Truth About Positive Thinking and Cancer Survival, may help you find ways to adopt a positive mindset while receiving skin cancer treatments.
- Communicate. Communicating openly and honestly with your healthcare providers and asking questions can help you feel more informed and in control of your health.
- Distract yourself. Focusing too much on your next doctor’s appointment or treatment will do more harm than good to your emotional well-being. Instead of worrying 24/7, why not rekindle your love for your neglected hobbies post-diagnosis? Engaging in fun or relaxing activities during treatment can help reduce stress and anxiety. So, assuming your favorite activities are safe, go ahead and pick up where you left off, whether it involves finishing a movie, TV series, book, video game, or crossword puzzle, among others.
Long-Term Emotional Impact of Melanoma
Even after successful treatment, the emotional impact of melanoma may continue to affect you. For instance, fear of recurrence is a common concern among melanoma survivors, and ongoing anxiety related to the disease can be challenging to manage. Coping with these ongoing emotional challenges requires ongoing self-care and support of melanoma, including:
- Regular check-ups. Routine follow-up appointments with your healthcare providers can provide reassurance and peace of mind, as well as catch any potential signs of cancer recurrence or complications.
- Self-examination. Learning how to perform self-examinations to detect skin cancer can help you feel more in control and proactive about your health.
- Practice mindfulness. Integrating mindfulness techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help calm the mind and promote emotional wellness.
- Continue seeking support. Engaging with support groups or connecting with other melanoma survivors can provide valuable emotional support during the long-term aftermath of treatment.
Instead of worrying, cancer survivors should be celebrating their victory. Consider reading Six Ways to Relax Without Spending a Dime and Cancer and PTSD: Coping Strategies That Work for more tips on how to relax, distract the mind, and let go of negative thoughts.
Where to Find Guidance and Support for Melanoma
Those living with melanoma skin cancer can benefit from several resources aiming to ease the burden surrounding diagnoses and fears of the unknown in survivorship.
Some of the best free available resources for melanoma patients and survivors include:
- Melanoma Research Foundation
- Melanoma Research Alliance
- Skin Cancer Foundation
- American Cancer Society
Managing melanoma can be challenging for those dealing with its symptoms and aftermath. Still, with the above coping strategies and resources, patients can have a firmer grip on their health and wellness.
About New Hope Unlimited
Choosing healthcare providers who are authorities in non-toxic cancer solutions and genuinely care about your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being can make a world of difference in your journey toward remission. Here at New Hope Medical Center, not only do we specialize in alternative cancer therapies, but we also provide compassionate support and understanding. We take the time to explain each patient’s treatment options and any potential side effects, while also offering emotional support and encouragement. If you want your cancer care providers to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and help you navigate the complex and overwhelming world of melanoma, choose us as your healthcare team. Dial 480-757-6573 to schedule a consultation.