What to Expect
In this two-part section we'll begin by discussing the types of emotional responses you and your loved ones may experience when you learn of your diagnosis, and what options you may consider pursuing to help cope with your diagnosis. In the second section, we'll also discuss ways in which you can tell your children about your diagnosis and your surgery.
How to Adjust to Life with a Brain Tumor
Adjusting emotionally to your diagnosis and making treatment a temporary part of your life can be difficult for you and your loved ones. It's typically a stressful, frightening time, but there are some things you can do to make it a little easier. Consider some of the following suggestions, and talk them over with friends, family, doctors, counselors and anybody else who is part of your support network.
Initially, many patients feel overwhelmed and in shock when they first learn that they have a serious illness. Give yourself some time to absorb the information you are given. Feelings of fear, sadness and anger are normal responses. Discussing these feelings with friends and loved ones may help you cope with these feelings. It may be helpful to have a family member or friend be present with you during meetings with the medical team so they can also hear the information and ask questions.
Learn As Much as You Can about Your Diagnosis and Treatment
The physicians and other professionals you are working with are here to help, so do not hesitate to ask them as many questions as you like. The more you learn about your condition the easier it will be to understand the processes you're experiencing. Do research at the library. Educate yourself. It will enhance your ability to manage your feelings and expectations.
Seek Professional Psychological Services
Coping with an illness such as a brain tumor or other neurological disorder can be emotionally stressful often times causing feelings of anxiety and/or depression. Taking care of your emotional well-being is essential to your overall health. Seeking help from a professional psychologist trained to understand the unique needs of patients with health related problems can facilitate coping with the stress of a medical illness and potentially improve your quality of life. A full range of psychological services are available to patients at the Department of Neurosurgery. To find out more about specific services that may be of benefit to you, or to schedule an appointment with a psychologist please click here.
Practice Stress Management
Dealing with illness and surgery is an extremely stressful experience, and stress can have an impact on your healing. It's often beneficial to incorporate stress management techniques into your daily routine both before surgery and during recovery.
Practices such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga and guided imagery can help reduce stress. Following are some techniques that may help you process emotion, vent anger and express feelings. Remember that not every technique works for everyone. Practice a variety of techniques to find what works best for you.
Slow, rhythmic breathing from the diaphragm (more toward the stomach than the chest) can help you relax. Sometimes incorporating a comforting word or phrase is helpful. Visualize yourself strong, whole and healthy while you're breathing. Visualize any image at all that brings a sense of comfort and safety.
There are numerous books available on a variety of techniques. Your support team may be able to make some recommendations.
This technique encourages visualization of different images that suggest comfort, relaxation and healing. There are tapes that you can listen to that will guide you through a visualization journey, or you can make up your own. Once again, ask your support team for suggestions.
Get Some Distractions
Do something you enjoy that helps you to take your mind off your worries. Go to a movie, get outside in nature, listen to music, focus on a hobby that you enjoy, or take a drive. Treat yourself well. You deserve joy and pleasure.
To the extent that you are able. Try to do some type of regular, gentle physical activity. Take a walk, do a little gardening or do whatever you enjoy that will get you moving. Always consult your doctor prior to starting any kind of exercise routine.
Join a Support Group
Consider participating in a support group. Many patients emphasize that sharing their feelings, questions and concerns with people who've been through a similar experience has made a world of difference. Support groups can help you deal with the demands of treatment, the conflicts that may arise in your family and your questions about the future.
The Department of Neurosurgery hosts a Brain Tumor Educational Support Group. The group meets quarterly on the last Wednesday of the month from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm in Room 830E at 8631 West Third Street in Los Angeles. The group is free to anyone diagnosed with a brain tumor, as well as their family members. There is no need to RSVP. For more information, contact Veronica Porche, PsyD at (310) 423-4473.
Be Kind to Yourself
Although it's helpful to maintain a positive attitude while you're going through this difficult time, it's also important to remember that depending on the location of the tumor and the areas of the brain it affects, you may not always be able to control your emotions or behaviors. Be patient with yourself. Understand that much of what you're experiencing is a result of your medical condition. Keep your doctor informed of times and situations in which you feel out of control. And make sure the people in your life are informed about your condition and the effect it can have on your personality at times.
Talk to Your Children about Your Condition and Surgery
If you have children, regardless of their ages, it can be difficult to talk to them about your condition and impending surgery. Even very young children may sense that something's wrong, and it's better to give them information than to let them imagine the worst, which can be their natural inclination.
If you give them some basic facts, something they can hold in their minds, it can give them a reality-based picture rather than a fear-based fantasy.
Explain your condition to your children in terms that they will understand. It may be of great benefit to the child that you will keep them informed about your health and will let them know about any changes. You may wish to consult with a child psychologist who can help you approach this process in the most positive and truthful way possible. Your Department of Neurosurgery Social Worker may be able to make referrals.
During hospitalization it's important to maintain contact with your children as soon as you feel able, to let them know that you are okay. A quick phone call to let them hear your voice can be very reassuring. If your children will be visiting you during your hospitalization, ask someone to explain to them ahead of time what they will see in the hospital and how you will look.
Children may have a variety of reactions to your diagnosis, many of which may be similar to yours, such as sadness, fear or anger. Some children will cling to you, while others may withdraw. Some children will laugh or behave badly to cover up their real feelings. It's important for a child to know that you understand and love them.
Most children will adjust emotionally to the situation over time. If your child has prolonged difficulty in coping, you may want to seek counseling for the child, and/or for the family as a group. The Department of Neurosurgery Social Worker is available to meet with your children, to answer any questions and to provide explanations.
If your child is the patient, dealing with illness and surgery can be a very unsettling experience both for the child and the entire family. The Child Life Services Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center helps children cope with their fears and anxieties by providing therapeutic activities designed to meet their social, emotional and educational needs. This program is available free of charge to all pediatric patients.
The Child Life specialists can assist with preparation for surgery and provide support during hospitalization. To schedule an appointment, call (310) 423-2380 or contact the Department of Neurosurgery at (310) 423-4473.
If you have specific concerns or questions, or would like referrals to counseling resources, please contact the Department of Neurosurgery at (310) 423-4473.
For an appointment, a second opinion or more information, please call 1-800-CEDARS-1 (1-800-233-2771) or e-mail us.