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Colorectal Cancer: Recurrence

Emotional Issues

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A recurrence takes a heavy toll on everyone: the survivor, spouses and significant others, family and friends.

The emotions which surface with a recurrence are different in both quality and scope from the emotions which are encountered when newly diagnosed and during treatment.

Do not allow emotions to keep you from exploring all medical options available to you, getting a second medical opinion, and moving forward with treatment.

If emotions get in the way, speak with your doctor or a mental health professional who is experienced in working with people with a life changing condition.

Feelings To Anticipate

People who have had a recurrence of colorectal cancer report the following:

  • Fear that borders on terror, no matter how good the odds are that the recurrence can be eliminated or made livable.
    • Fear can show up in a variety of areas, such as fear of death, fear of going through different, stronger and more damaging treatments or fear that the people closest to you will abandon you.
    • One fear that can show up is fear of an ostomy. Keep in mind that IF you will need an ostomy, today:
      • There is nothing that you cannot do with an ostomy. 
      • No one can see an ostomy under your clothes.
      • There is no longer any smell.
  • A feeling of unfairness that this is happening to you. You may even find yourself wishing that other people would get cancer as well.
  • Anger – at life, at the universe, at God or another higher power, perhaps even at your oncologist, at the waste of time and energy for everything you did to help prevent a recurrence. Anger can show up in many ways, including in the form of frustration in daily activities and with the people around you.
  • Depression.
  • Feeling sorry for yourself.
  • Grief and a sense of loss over such subjects as:
    • The loss of the feeling of health and well being you had prior to finding out about the recurrence.
    • The loss of the future and the opportunity to do the things you planned on doing
    • The loss of relationships which ended
    • The loss of career opportunities you had to forego to have treatment.
    • All the other losses you’ve suffered in life.
    • The shaken, or entire loss, of faith in the medical system
    • A loss of trust in the medical system in general or your oncologist in particular, and perhaps your ability to make a reasoned medical decision or to rise to the challenges.
  • Weariness about facing treatment all over again.

Some people even contemplate suicide without realizing it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

For a discussion of various feelings, and tips for dealing with them, see the documents in “To Learn More.”

Friends, Family and Caretakers

While your main job at this point is to focus on yourself and getting the medical care you need, give consideration to the needs of the people around you, particularly your team of caregivers.

If they need help, suggest they speak with a mental health professional, join a support group  or a self help group, and/or make contact with someone else similarly situated.


If the holidays are approaching and you are having a difficult time emotionally related to colorectal cancer, learn how to cope by clicking here.

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