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Cancer patients need more than Chemo
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Cancer patients need more than Chemo

Cancer ravages the body of young people with the disease but it doesn’t stop there it also takes a toll on their minds, emotions and social well-being. The hair loss, amputations and stomas, fatigue, poor concentration, and a decline in sex drive that results from the disease can cause severe psychological distress for patients writes Toshaunae Norris, a 19-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Jamaica.

At a recent Commonwealth Secretariat seminar highlighting the experiences of young people who’ve had cancer,’ Sidney Chahonyo, a cancer survivor and Chairman of the board at Hope for Cancer Kids in Kenya called for psychosocial support for cancer patients in low-and middle-income Commonwealth countries. He also highlighted the need for more discussions on the issue.

It is not just the physical symptoms of the disease that cancer patients battle, they also struggle with fear, loneliness, depression, lack of focus, panic attacks, and may even display psychological symptoms such as somatic symptom disorders and demoralization syndrome. This kind of psychological distress results in a poor quality of life for young people living with cancer, survivors of the disease, and their families.

Mr Chahonyo also explained that social issues such as stigmatization,  marginalization, prejudice, discrimination in the workplace, and exclusion from community involvement increase the risk of mental health decline in cancer patients.

He added that these stressors are further compounded by the pressure many young cancer patients face when they do not have health insurance and their families cannot foot their healthcare bills.

Mr Chahonyo’s presentation left no doubt that there is far more to treating cancer than treating the physical illness. The psychological burden of cancer patients is heavy and psychosocial support is as important for them as chemotherapy and other cancer treatment. 

At the community level, this means everyone including cancer patients, their families, health care professionals and community members must play a part. 

Cancer patients can find mental health support through meditation and mindfulness sessions, counselling or talk therapy, exercise, cancer education sessions, and medications. 

During the Commonwealth session,  cancer survivor Yukiko Nakao shared how attending Bible school helped her cope with depression during her battle with the disease. 

“I  felt very loved and cared for,” she said. “People underestimate the power of a relationship. When someone is empathetic and caring, genuinely caring, that really does change and transform a person. And that is when I overcame my depression,” she said.  

Her powerful statement reinforces how important emotional support is for young people battling cancer.

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Photo Credits: Pixabay

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About Toshaunae Norris: I am a former sixth-form student of Campion College, Kingston, Jamaica. I enjoy writing articles and poems. In 2020, I wrote an essay as a participant of the CARICOM Competition Commission Regional Youth Competition on the prompt: “How does consumer protection laws benefit me and my region”. I received a top honourable mention in the 16-19 age category. I have leveraged my insights from this experience to enter other essay writing competitions like the John Locke Institute Essay competition 2020 and the Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition 2021 which allowed me to build on my critical thinking and expository skills. I also hope to become an Astrophysicist and a future writer and later executive editor of the New York Times.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles

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