News Article Details

Finding help with depression, anxiety when battling cancer; Achieving Happiness

Capital - 6/11/2018

'I'm sorry. The news isn't good. You have cancer. But we're going to ..."

Of course, you didn't hear anything after the doctor said "cancer." Your brain started spinning, and your heart began pounding. You could hardly breathe as fear flooded your entire being.

"Oh my God," you thought, "I'm going to die."

Your panic mixed with profound sadness.

"I'm not going to see my grandkids grow up, or grow old with my husband."

Tears began to run down your cheek.

Your husband tried to comfort you. "We're going to fight this," he told you as he put his arm around you. But a feeling of dread consumed you.

"You'll need chemotherapy after the surgery," the doctor was saying. Chemotherapy? Surgery? Two more bombs went off in your head. You were too numb to even ask any questions. You wanted to run, but felt paralyzed.

That terrible day happened months ago, but there are times when the terror still overwhelms you. Some nights you wake up sweating trying to shake off a bad dream. Too many times you can't get off of the sofa because hopeless feelings exhaust your energy.

"Why me?" you wonder.

Angry emotions often surface. As you head off to sit for hours in a chemotherapy chair your mind screams, "This is so unfair!" Resentment oozes from deep within you when, depleted, you get finally get home and check Facebook: "Look at all my friends enjoying life while I'm struggling to survive."

These emotions are normal reactions to an extremely stressful situation. However, horrible feelings do not have to completely contaminate your mind. People with cancer can learn to counterbalance by breaking free from ruminating on what's wrong and building their ability to bring what's good into focus.

Wellness House of Annapolis offers a free monthly educational series in which speakers from a variety of helping professions share their perspective on mitigating the side effects of cancer treatment and strategies for healthy living. From noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, I will offer strategies for overcoming anxiety and depression when battling cancer.

In some cases, patients are unaware of the effect that cancer-related stress and treatments such as chemotherapy have on their mood and well-being. Other times they're all too aware.

In this seminar, you will learn to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety. We will explore how positive psychology can mitigate these side effects by converting stress into energy for not just surviving, but thriving and finding meaning in the midst of suffering.

Three strategies will be examined, and exercises will show how to apply each of them.

First, mindfulness will be explained. People can develop the ability to use increased awareness of their thoughts to break free from obsessing over the worst case scenario to shifting to kind and loving thoughts. The result is a significant change in one's emotional state.

Second, the 1 percent solution will be explored. Most efforts to improve our well being fail because we try to do too much too soon in the hopes that we'll see immediate results. Learning to commit to making small changes every day generates continuous progress that eventually allows us to prevail.

Third, gratitude will be discussed. Good and bad happen simultaneously in life, but negative circumstances can blind us from seeing what's bright and beautiful. People can develop daily rituals to appreciate the positive.

The vision of Wellness House is to provide a gathering place where cancer patients and their loved ones can learn healthy coping skills while dealing with the effects of cancer. It is a safe place where those going through the process of treatment and recovery can connect and support each other.

The Wellness House offers over 35 free programs and services to cancer patients and their loved ones from diagnosis to survivorship. Services and classes are offered weekdays and some evenings, Mondays through Thursdays. All programs are offered free of charge.

Counseling services are available to help cancer patients, families and caregivers navigate through the functional, emotional and spiritual adjustment necessary to maintain their quality of life during their cancer journey. Activities including yoga, meditation, educational seminars, therapeutic art classes and workshops are offered. In addition, well-being services such as Healing Touch, Reiki and massage can be scheduled.

Wellness House depends entirely on the generosity of individuals and organizations in our community and beyond. Monetary and in-kind donations help them reach the thousands of families going through the cancer recovery process. To learn about how you can help, go to

Dr. Tom Muha is a psychologist working with clients in Annapolis. To contact him, call 443-454-7274 or email drtommuha@ More information about positive psychology can be found at

Credit: Tom Muha - Dr. Tom Muha is a psychologist working with clients in Annapolis. To contact him, call 443-454-7274 or email drtommuha@; More information about positive psychology can be found at


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