October is Emotional Wellness Month: Stress and Cancer

“In the days and weeks following my brain cancer diagnosis, stress was a given. Saying my family and I suffered from it was like a pregnant woman saying she was having difficulty bending over, it almost didn’t need to be said.” Ellen Moroney was ushered into the world of brain cancer in a notably sudden and frightening way on an incongruously warm spring day in 2016, when she collapsed on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol following an undetected brain tumor.

In her first year as a legislative aide at the Capitol, she was experiencing stress typical of new college graduates attempting to make their way in the world, or so she thought… what she soon learned is the stress she experienced did not compare to what was about to confront her. “The stress I experienced after that day was based on short-term unknowns and longer-term realities that would never go away,” Moroney says. “Life would never be the same.” And it wasn’t the same for Ellen, her sister, or her parents.

In his National Book Award winning study, Journalist Andrew Solomon memorably referred to stress as the Noonday Demon (Solomon, Noonday Demon, 2001). Others know it as a corrosive feeling that compels physical stiffness and spasticity, hypertension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and loss of appetite, among other undesirable symptoms. Stress impedes life for someone without cancer, but for someone diagnosed with cancer and their family, stress is intensified at levels few can comprehend, unless you have been unfortunate enough to travel the cancer journey yourself or with a loved one. Stress is inadequately addressed and the symptoms are amplified and never fully eradicated in cancer patients and their families.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 72% of those who care for cancer patients relay they have not visited a doctor as often as they should, and nearly 60% concede their eating habits worsened following the cancer diagnosis of a loved one.

Recognizing that life forever changes for those affected by a child’s cancer diagnosis, Here to Serve works to ensure that the 72% and 60% drops drastically. Here to Serve also recognizes that attending to the health of those diagnosed with cancer need not entail consistent neglect of a parent’s health and wellbeing. Without direct, ongoing, tangible support to make living more bearable and needs less daunting, service is merely a catchphrase or action verb, not a solution. Here to Serve focuses service on pediatric cancer families on private insurance. These families are often compelled to manage copays and deductibles too much to absorb draining bank accounts and precipitating home loss. There is no time for laundry, cooking and daily necessities that preserve health and sanity. These are the areas Here to Serve addresses with its support programs.

If you or someone you know has a child that has been recently diagnosed with cancer, please share the good news about Here to Serve and how they can help reduce the impact of stress on the family. Click this link to get help.

by Frank Kane