Published June 19, 2008
ASK AN EXPERT
LINDA KENGOTT, THERAPIST
How can people reduce the stress
of a cancer diagnosis?
diagnosed cancer patients feel stress, said Wellness
House counselor Linda Kengott of Hinsdale.
“That is a normal part of what happens,” she said. “But that stress
can be motivating and energizing, too.”
Try to redirect the energy to gather information and set up a
“Identify what normally works for you to reduce stress and draw on
those things,” Kengott said. “If exercise works for you,
try to carve out 15 minutes for walking every day.”
It’s important for patients to remember to be gentle with
themselves and to go slow.
Part of feeling stressed is the “not knowing,” she said. Many
people first turn to the Internet for information, which
is both a good idea and a bad idea. A lot of information
is available on the Internet but some of it is just too
much — or is too specific to one case.
“Places like Wellness House have support groups and educational
programs where productive, helpful information is
available,” Kengott said.
Wellness House also has a library filled with research and
informational material and networking groups where those
with a specific cancer can share information.
“A networking group is different than a support group. They can
exchange information about treatments that work,
doctors, and that gives them comfort,” she said.
Putting these elements together gives a patient a more complete
picture than what the Internet provides, she added.
Figure out who you want to include in your “inner circle” — the
people you want to tell first about your diagnosis and
talk to about what you plan to do next.
“You don’t have to tell everyone in the beginning,” Kengott said.
“Talk to the people you are closest to. First get your
For some people, telling their mother or a family member can be
terribly stressful. But, as in many situations, the fear
of what might happen is much worse than what actually
If it works better to tell a couple of family members and ask them
to inform others in the family, that’s OK.
Kengott also encourages parents to tell their children, even if
they are young, and to use the word “cancer.”
“Parents want to protect their kids, but kids can feel when there
is stress in the family,” she said.
What kids don’t know they make up in their imagination, often
creating a worse situation than the real one.
Finding a doctor and choosing a treatment also is stressful for
newly diagnosed patients. Kengott offered advise to
reduce that strain.
“Unless it is a dire situation, get a second opinion,” Kengott
recommended. “If it’s the same opinion as the first then
you can feel comfortable going forward.”
When feeling overwhelmed with the many decisions that have to be
made, take a deep breath. Make decisions as they need to
be made daily.
“People get caught up with ‘What if this?’ or ‘What if that?’ Try
to focus on the next right thing and break it down,” she
Above all remember, that your job is to take care of you, she
“Just be really good and kind to yourself. Allow yourself any
reaction you are having as you move through the
diagnosis and allow for your emotions.”
— by Polly Rix
Making a Difference is a yearlong
The Hinsdalean and Wellness House to increase awareness
about the organization, which works to encourage,
educate and emotionally support people working to
overcome the effects of cancer.