Cancer is trauma. Let’s talk about it.

Cancer is common. Recent figures show at least one in three people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. This weekend, on June 2nd, it’s Cancer Survivors Day. This is a day to raise awareness but also celebrate those who have won the battle against this terrible disease.

Cancer is a trauma. It is physical trauma to the body, but it is also an emotional and psychological trauma to not only the person diagnosed, but their support people as well.

New research has shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur with cancer survivors. And since we know that symptoms of PTSD can follow any traumatic event, directly or indirectly experienced, it makes sense that that PTSD from cancer can be widespread.

Aspects of cancer experiences that may trigger PTSD include:

  • Diagnosis of cancer (directly or someone you know)
  • Diagnosis of advanced cancer
  • Painful tests and treatments
  • Physical painful symptoms of cancer
  • Test results
  • Extended hospital stays
  • Relapse of cancer

If you’re unfamiliar with PTSD or aren’t sure how to recognize the symptoms, here are some common side effects of PTSD:

  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks of the trauma
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling shame or guilt
  • Avoidance
  • Irritability and anger
  • Self-destructive behaviours (drinking too much, unusual risks, etc.)
  • Uncontrolled sadness

It’s normal to have some of these symptoms as a cancer survivor. However, if you’re having disturbing thoughts and feelings for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to a professional. [American Cancer Society]

Recognizing disease as trauma can help you deal with the effects the trauma may be having on your life, and allow you to move towards healing.

It’s encouraging to see that so many trauma survivors are finding solace and guidance in sharing their stories and from reading ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ as well. Community and conversation are powerful forces in overcoming trauma, so feel free to take part in a conversation with us on social media as well.

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