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Cancer is all about a journey which forces an individual to relook into one’s way of living. Recovery from the disease poses several challenges and to pick up life after the onslaught of cancer becomes a major issue. To restore confidence in one’s own body and to banish the various ill thoughts of one’s  future keep haunting the minds of the survivors.  

Head and neck cancer treatment often leave behind profound effects on patient’s quality of life.  Problems of disfigurement of the face, distortion of speech, loss of taste and appetite, impairment of eating, severe oral dryness, stiffness of the tissues are certain aspects which these patients have to deal with all their lives. These survivors are often reminded of their disease and it’s treatment each day as they look into the mirror. So, the physical and psychological trauma brought forth by these malignancies and their treatment often translate into depressive episodes. But in the course of time, survivors learn to live with it. Various studies from different parts of the world have shown that the life satisfaction score and the psychological issues of the patients tend to improve as time passes by.

Cancer and it’s sustained treatment have both direct and longstanding impact on patient’s psyche.  Emotional well – being of these individuals is of paramount concern. Occasional thoughts about losing the battle against cancer, troubles meeting the needs of the family, sexual and fertility concerns, workplace issues and above all the financial stress of meeting the expenses of the treatment are overpowering. Insecurity about the future often becomes a cause of stress which with time lead to apathy and anxiety. 

The survivors often experience a mixture of strong feelings, including joy, concern, relief, guilt and fear. But these worst moments of patient’s life are fought beautifully by many, with their strong will power. Often the challenges associated with this disease enables an individual to view life from a different perspective. These tough situations and the hardest moments bring out the best in different individuals. Some people in fact appreciate life more after a cancer diagnosis and gain acceptance of themselves with time. Hence the quality of life of every individual is a subjective construct. It greatly depends upon an individual’s lifestyle, past experiences, hopes for the future and his or her dreams and ambitions. 

An effective way to sail through these tough times is to teach the patients – coping strategy. This in turn helps them to regain control over many aspects of their lives and become independent and productive. To achieve this goal , the patients and survivors are given an  understanding of the challenges which they have to face. They are made to think through the various solutions and are given comfort and due support of the caregivers and the treating team.  

Balancing one’s lifestyle through relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga and also engaging oneself in creative pursuits helps relieve one’s stress bucket. Regular physical activity is one of the best ways of destressing and relieving anxiety in these patients. Besides producing the “feel good hormones” in the brain it aids the production of endorphins which help us clear our negative thoughts and emotions. Yoga in fact is a wonderful discipline through which one can calm one’s mind. It also helps relieve the various distressing moments and phases associated with this disease.  

All experiences in life good or bad are life lessons. One needs to roll with the punches and see problems in life as challenges. Philosophically speaking, our body is like a chariot. Our senses are like horses, and the mind is like the reins. By holding these reins firmly, we keep control of our thoughts and mind. So in the journey of fight with cancer, one learns and relearns the incredible potential of mind. When programmed with optimism, it has an unlimited potential to heal and transform an individual.

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