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Hinsdale, Illinois |

Published June 19, 2008                                                        

                                 ASK AN EXPERT

                               LINDA KENGOTT, THERAPIST

How can people reduce the stress
of a cancer diagnosis?

   All newly 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 support system.
   “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 bearings.”
   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 does happen.
   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 said.
   Above all remember, that your job is to take care of you, she advised.
   “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 partnership between
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.




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