Coping With Anxiety
- Singer Michael Buble, 49, revealed his son’s liver cancer diagnosis affected his mental health. He said he even lost interest in his music while supporting his son throughout his cancer journey.
- Among the emotions Buble and his family experienced include scan anxiety, also known as “scan-xiety.” It’s the uneasy feeling cancer patients and their loved ones experience before, during, and after cancer scans, fearing it will worsen or return if in remission.
- A child’s cancer diagnosis affects the entire family, so when assuming the role of a caregiver, it’s important to remember to be your child’s biggest advocate so they receive the best care possible. This includes making sure any concerning symptoms are fully and expeditiously addressed.
- Caregivers must also be on guard for “caregiver burnout,” where stress, anger, fatigue, and illness emerge from putting another person’s needs ahead of their own. Remember, talking to a therapist or your support group is an important tool to help you cope during this difficult period.
Beloved singer Michael Buble, 49, is a dedicated father of four who also happens to be one of the most prominent music artists in the game. However, his career was put on hold when his young son Noah was diagnosed with liver cancer. Nothing can adequately prepare parents to help their child cope with a cancer diagnosis, but its emotional toll on parents is equally taxing.
View this post on InstagramRead MoreLast month, Buble and his family celebrated Noah’s 10th birthday. The heartwarming Instagram video shows a collection of photos of Noah over the years.
“Noah, mi amor, 10 years!!! What?? It went so fast, you don’t even know how much we love you,” Buble wrote in a caption.
“Thank you for teaching us how to be parents and for all the memories we have and will make together!!!” he continued.
Among the memories and emotions Noah has brought his parents includes his bout with liver cancer. Buble previously shared with the Sunday Telegraph that the experience caused him to lose interest in music and that he didn’t even sing in the shower. At the time, he made “taking care of [his] family and protecting [his] mental health” his top priority while his son battled liver cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, Hepatoblastoma (liver cancer), which is what Noah had, is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the liver. Blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans (X-ray images), MRIs (medical imaging), and angiograms generally confirm a liver cancer diagnosis.
As the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh says, liver cancer is relatively rare in children. Hepatoblastoma only affects two to three people in 1 million.
Children suffering from hepatoblastoma may experience:
- A lump in the abdomen that may be painful
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Since children may not be able to express the symptoms they may be experiencing, parents must be vigilant of physical and behavioral changes in their kids.
“I always felt like I was Teflon; there was never a moment that could get the better of me,” Buble said.
As his son’s prognosis improved in 2018, Buble was “still a wreck.” Fortunately, by December 2021, Buble revealed Noah had reached remission.
“He’s really good. It’s been almost five years. We still have the scans and the ‘scan-xiety,’” he said to Smooth Radio. The National Cancer Institute explains that the signs and symptoms are reduced or disappear when cancer reaches remission. Reaching five years in remission is considered a remarkable milestone because cancers that return do so within the first five years after treatment.
WATCH: Dealing with anxiety around cancer scans.
The “Scan-xiety” Buble experiences is the anxiety that people living with cancer (or survivors) sometimes feel when thinking about their next scans. It is a major stressor for cancer warriors and their families. The stress and anxiety don’t end when the cancer has reached remission. Many cancer patients continue worrying that the cancer will return amid recurrent scans.
More on Liver Cancer
Coping with Anxiety
According to psychologist Dr. Marianna Strongin, almost half of cancer survivors experience anxiety, even after they beat the disease. These uneasy feelings are not just limited to the ones diagnosed with the disease; their loved ones also experience these same anxieties. Dr. Strongin recommends finding ways to calm your mind to begin your journey to coping with anxiety.
“We can’t tell ourselves to be calm without actually calming and soothing the body first,” she said. When her patients are anxious, Dr. Strongin asks them to locate the anxiety in their body and focus their attention on calming that space.
How to Know When Your Mental Health Is Thrown Off?
Mental health impacts how we think, feel, and behave. Stressful situations, traumatic events, or changes in your physical health can trigger it.
“For long-term mental health and living with cancer, flexibility is really at the core of how to manage long-term mental health,” says New York-based psychologist Dr. Samantha Boardman.
Dr. Boardman suggests asking yourself questions about how you deal with stressful situations to see if they’re working or need adjusting.
“Are your coping strategies in the way that you’re using them now? Are they as effective as they were in the past? Take a look at your beliefs. Do you have any fixed beliefs that are counterproductive and are impeding you from taking positive steps?” Dr. Boardman said.
To keep your mental health in check, it’s important to be aware of signs that can be subtle that something is affecting your mind. These signs include:
- A change in eating or sleeping habits
- Losing interest in people or usual activities
- Experiencing little or no energy
- Numb and/or hopeless feelings
- Turning to drink or drugs more than usual
- Non-typical angry, upset, or on-edge feelings
- Yelling/fighting with loved ones
- Experiencing mood swings
- Intrusive thoughts
- Trouble getting through daily tasks
If you struggle in any of these areas, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to begin your emotional journey alongside your other cancer treatment.
Supporting Your Young Cancer Warrior
Advocating for your and your child’s health is essential to getting the necessary care before a condition worsens. Some cancers can have subtle symptoms, so don’t delay seeing your doctor. Thankfully, Noah had watchful parents looking for subtle signs that something was amiss.
Family members caring for a child diagnosed with cancer can be stressful. Family support not only eases the anxiety of the cancer patient, but the added support also helps their loved ones.
Caregivers of cancer warriors must also watch out for “caregiver burnout,” where stress, anger, fatigue, and illness emerge from putting another person’s needs ahead of yours.
Caregivers who struggle to care for a cancer warrior should seek out a therapist or a support group, either online or in person.
As parents navigate the cancer journey with their young cancer warriors, it’s important to remember children’s bodies may react differently to treatments than adults because their bodies are still growing.
“They may receive more intense treatments…and they may respond differently to drugs that control symptoms in adults,” according to the National Cancer Institute, so it’s important to ask plenty of questions to doctors throughout the cancer journey.
Signs of Childhood Cancer
Childhood cancers can display a wide variety of symptoms, so parents must remain vigilant for anything unusual with their children. SurvivorNet has listed the top ten childhood cancer symptoms to help parents better detect symptoms early.
- Flu-like symptoms:
- A “glow” in the pupil. When the pupil appears white or pink instead of red when you shine a light in the eye and lazy eye (strabismus) when the eyes don’t appear to look in the same direction.
- Itchy skin.
- Trouble exercising.
- Decreased appetite.
- A swollen face.
- Abnormal bleeding.
- A stomach lump.
- Bone or joint pain.
- A myriad of odd symptoms.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you find yourself struggling with a diagnosis or helping a loved one cope with their emotions, consider asking your doctor the following questions:
- How can I go about improving my outlook/mental health?
- Are there any activities I can do to encourage positive feelings?
- When should I seek other interventions if I’m still struggling?
- What are the steps to finding a different therapist if the one I’m using is not working out?
- How can I seek help if I am feeling over-stressed?
- Are there any activities that I should be avoiding?
- Are there support groups in my area that deal with “scan anxiety?”