SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A cancer diagnosis is not just devastating on your body it can be hard on your mental health as well.
“To hear that news initially our brains kinda just shut down. Automatically, it’s natural human instinct for us to start worrying about the future. Automatically worrying about what’s going to happen next,” Baxter Chandler, LICSW | Support Group Leader at Cancer House of Hope said.
Baxter Chandler runs a support group at CHD’s Cancer House of Hope in West Springfield, helping people at all stages of their cancer journey, cope with overwhelming emotions that come with the words “you have cancer.”
“You just think of the worst. You don’t think of the best, you think of the worst. It’s hard that you have to accept what you have and you just take basically one day at a time,” said Kimberly Clark of Longmeadow.
Clark was diagnosed with leukemia about 7 years ago. She’s currently in remission and says despite the devastation of the diagnosis her life has taken on a new meaning. “You look at life completely different than a normal person. You appreciate things and whatever you do, you put your whole heart into it. It’s completely different now.”
Mary Grocott agrees, “Because of the cancer diagnosis in many, many many ways my life has become more meaningful.”
Clark says for her, one of the most difficult experiences she had emotionally was sharing the news with her family. “They cried. They cried. The boys were a mess. My two sons just broke down. My mother, never expected her daughter to have an illness where she could die before her. It was bad. I think telling your family is the worst.”
Chandler says this is a common theme in the support group, “We often encourage people to pace themselves. That you get to share the information at your own pace.”
Both Clark and Grocott get a lot of emotional support from CHD’s Cancer House of Hope. Whether it be through massage, reiki treatments, or the comfort of being around others going through a similar experience. Family members can also be a great source of support but Chandler points out, that many of the people he works with find they also have to set limits.
“Ironically sometimes it’s about telling their family members no, go I can be at the house by myself, or you don’t have to call me every five minutes to see if I’m OK.”
Handling the constant uncertainty can be a challenge. “It’s still in the back of your mind, you have it in the back of your mind. it could come back. yeah,” Clark added. Both women maintain that staying positive has been one thing that keeps them moving ahead.
Grocott concludes, “I’ve had a good outlook and I can’t stress enough how important that is.”