Will being under a lot of stress cause my cancer to return?

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 3c in August 2010. Went through a lot with major surgery and then 6 rounds of chemo, just like all of you have. In Jan 2011 was told I am in remission. Was happy to be done with chemo, but from everything I've read, I feel my journey is just beginning. I'm trying very hard to be a positive person. In the last week or two, I have been under a lot of emotional stress at work and have done a lot of crying, and am now having pains in my abdomen area. I guess I worry too much, but am afrain the cancer has returned, and it's my fault. I need to control my emotions better. I don't get my next CA125 till July. Can having a meltdown of stress cause the cancer to return?

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  • Dear Deb,

    You have the wrong end of the stick, in several ways. Whilst it is important to reduce stress in your life as much as possible to support your immune system, stress comes in many forms, it is inevitable and vital. Actually, crying and expressing your feelings is good for you and will help - 'controlling' emotions is usually a euphemism for suppressing them. Suppression builds stress!

    It is NOT NOT NOT your fault if your disease is returning AND there are things you can do in terms of lifestyle to make it more likely that you can cope whether it is or not.

    For a year after I got to your stage in my recovery, I had to fight a fierce legal battle with my employers and former colleagues who used my cancer as an opportunity to cheat me out of what they had previously agreed. I was furious, betrayed, disappointed, grieving and very very upset. I fought, I expressed it all, and yes; I feared it might re-activate my disease. However, I was also d**** well not going to let them make me ill again! It was one of the most stressful years of my life, but it is how you use the stress that counts. So far, I'm fine nearly 2 years after finishing treatment.

    Can you find a counsellor or other neutral person to talk it all through with?

    If you're worried about your symptoms, go to your GP and ask for an early CA125 test. No point in adding to your negative stress levels by having that chewing away at the back of your mind.

    I had abdominal pain lots of times in the first 2 years - still do! I think it's the muscle trying to re-attach (if you had a long vertical op wound, anyway). They don't tell you about these things, do they?

    Deb; don't beat yourself up! Decide to be your own best friend, and examine what is good for you, what isn't, and what you need to kick out of your life. If your job, or parts of it are causing you pain now is a good time to insist that your employers re-design your job to make it more comfortable for you.

    Very best wishes with it.

    With love and feeling,

    Isadora

  • Dear Deb,

    You really need to find someone to talk your problems with self worth through! I say this because you need to be your own very best friend through cancer, and it sounds as if that's going to be hard for you.

    I'm afraid that, however 'civilised' humans consider themselves, when employment politics get involved, people start acting appallingly. I always used to wonder why people suffering from cancer, depression, etc needed the protection of the anti-discrimination legislation. When I got cancer, I found out (and those were people I had created jobs for and employed for more than a decade!). You must find a way to feel ok about taking the time and resources you need for your treatment and recovery.

    If you got cancer 'because you are a bad person' then so are most of us on here - and I for one will argue with you about that!! No - get on the right side of yourself and enlist your strengths to help yourself get well and support your immune system to combat any illness that comes your way. `oh, and if you feel miserable and depressed, cry and express it, kick a cardboard box to death, and rail against this thing that has happened (totally arbitrarily) to you.

    Very best wishes,

    I.

  • Hallo Deb

    Isadora's reply should have been a big help to you and I cant add anything to it - except...

    I do sometimes feel that all this 'think positively' that gets rammed down our throats is not always helpful. We cant possibly help feeling low, frightened and angry at times, only to then also feel guilty and worried that such feelings are negative and therefore harmful and that we must be our own worst enemy and some sort of failure.

    It is far better to acknowledge these 'negative' feelings for what they are - entirely NORMAL. Everyone has them, however brave and cheerful they seem on the surface. What does help is to talk about them and as Isadora suggests, seeing a counsellor can be a huge help. Ask if your treatment centre offers the service. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with my thoughts and seeing my counsellor invariably enables me to get things back into perspective. And that is a positive thing to have done which counter-balances the negative.

    Hope this helps and lots of luck

    Patsy

  • Hi Deb

    You have received some good advice from Isadora and Patsy but I would just like to say BE GOOD TO YOURSELF.

    I was also 3C and finished my treatment in January 2010 so just a bit ahead of you. Looking back I think one of the bits of advice I would give myself is to be good to myself and relax more. My job can be fairly stressful and I did not have that much time off really (about five months in total) so my advice to any one else (if they are lucky enough to get paid when they are off sick) is to take more time off.

    I too have quite a bit of pain but at the beginning of the year I was convinced my cancer had returned as I was quite uncomfortable so I got my three monthly appointment brought forward. However just before the appointment was due I went off to Dubai for a week for the relaxing holiday I had promised myself ever since I was going through my treatment. After a day or two of lying by the pool I realised I was not experiencing the pain anymore and my body just really needed to rest. I think that recovering from all the treatment is quite a journey in itself but as time goes on you get stronger and you can look back and see how far you have come.

    Best wishes

  • Hi Deb

    So sorry to hear your troubles. I am sure that stress contributed to my ovarian cancer, but after more stress, more fears and 8 years I am beginning to believe it will be ok! I can only echo all the advice above, it's all so sound. One thought ....Try ringing your specialist nurse at the hospital and talking through (a) an earlier appointment and (b) counselling. We have a support group for women with gynae cancers at our local hospital and the specialists who came to talk to us last month said that that is the quickest way into the system. I hope that is also the case for you.

    I completely agree with advice to treat yourself really well at this time. Your mind, body, spirit and emotions have been through so much, it's time to pamper yourself if you can, even if it's only a walk in the park to look at the birds! Good luck,

    Love, Wendy xx

  • Hi Deb

    You have already received very good advice. All I would add is do find out if there is a Maggie's Centre near you and whether your hospital or GP could refer you to a clinical psychologist attached to the oncology unit. They can be a big help. Also as Wendy says, speaking to your specialist nurse may help. Your stress at work may be a be made worse by you feeling vulnerable and exhausted after treatment. You could do with some help to regain your confidence and to be reassured that the cancer was not your fault - and never will be.

    Good luck

    love Angela

  • Deb you have said so much that has touched me... and I can associate with so much... I used to and sometimes till do think that I was a bad person for this to happen to me... but I now know it isn't anything I have done... just rotten luck...

    I wish we could all meet up for a good old chin wag... my best friend when I was diagnosed was the one that listened to the 'reality' of how I felt and didn't just say 'it will be fine'... and this is what the women on here can do..

    Take care honey x

  • Thank you for your kind words. You have made me feel so much better. I also, wish we could sit and talk. Thanks again for cheering me up today!

    Take care,

    Deb

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