5 Things Cancer Patients Are Afraid Of (But Will Never Tell You)

Someone close to you has cancer.

Maybe they are your friend, your family member, your coworker, your spouse. You might be afraid for them, and that’s okay. It’s okay to be afraid. However, it’s important to be a line of support to your loved one because they could be much more afraid than you know. You might not even think about some of the things that could be on their mind at all times. There are plenty of worries and fears cancer patients think about, but some are more common than others. Here are 5 things cancer patients are afraid of (but will never tell you).

Fear Of The Unknowns Of The Cancer Itself

You may think that your loved one would be afraid of the known effects and side effects of cancer and the treatment that they are prescribed, but a lot of times it is completely the other way around. Think about how much information can be found on the internet today. Now think about the fact that we as a worldly population still haven’t found the cure for cancer. Put those two things together, and you have a load of people online who have a lot to say but still don’t have many solid answers or information about treatments and cures and even cancer itself.

Your loved one has more than likely searched for answers to their questions on the internet. And even more likely is they are not receiving definitive answers to those questions. The unknown is a scary place. The cancer patient has the internet which can’t seem to have a cumulative answer or consensus, and then they have friends and family who are even more in the unknown, and even the patient’s doctor or team of doctors can’t give clear definitive answers to their questions. Many questions are answered in percentages and hopefulness and trying to do the best that they can. It is everything people still don’t know about cancer that can cause worry and fear for the patient.

Fear Of Treating Their Cancer The Wrong Way

Speaking of the internet, do you know how many different cancer treatment options you can find online? If you’ve ever searched for “alternative cancer treatments,” you’ll find a long list of treatments and ideas that people say have worked for them or for others, treatments people think could help in addition to medical treatments, and even more common you will find a slew of natural treatments, remedies and cures for cancer, many of which were not written by a health professional. Remember before when I explained all of the unknowns of cancer and the answers or lack of answers you could find on the internet? The same is true in what people think is the best treatment options for cancer, and it becomes increasingly difficult for patients to make a clear choice on what is the best option.

What happens to many cancer patients is they search the internet for things like “the best way to treat cancer,” and “new method for treating cancer,” and “cure for cancer found,” and “alternative forms of cancer treatment,” and “natural remedies for curing cancer.” And while some of the answers they find could be helpful in one form or another, there’s so many different answers and alternative forms of treating cancer that the patient is left wondering if how they’ve decided to treat their cancer is indeed the best choice. What if they choose a treatment that ends up not working for them? What if they decide to go all-natural and their cancer gets worse? What if complications occur? What if they listen to their doctor, or the internet health guru, or their family and friends, and things just don’t get better? It’s important to note that everyone has their own thoughts and ideas for cancer treatment, and there isn’t one definitive “best choice,” and that can be extremely worrisome and scary for the cancer patient.

Fear Of The Reactions And Worries Of Family And Friends

Sometimes even more than the worry and fear regarding themselves is the cancer patient’s fear about their family and friends. It might seem strange that with everything a cancer patient is going through and their long list of worries and concerns that they would also worry about their family and friends, but this is the case among many patients.

There are multiple worries patients have regarding family and friends. One relates to what you learned before about the unknowns of cancer and the multitudes of treatment options that are available. Patients are afraid that their family members and friends won’t believe in their choice of treatment, or that their loved ones believe they are choosing the wrong treatment.

Cancer patients are also afraid of the reactions of family and friends, and what their diagnosis will do to the relationships they have built their entire life. Cancer can be scary for everyone, and each and every person will react differently. Some run and hide, others are overbearing, some give too much advice, and others not nearly enough support. Your loved one is more than a cancer patient, and it’s important to remember that. They may be even more scared than you are, and they could be afraid that things will never be the same between you and them. The most important thing you can do is show your support by keeping things exactly the way they’ve always been. You don’t have to pretend their cancer doesn’t exist, but believe that nothing between the relationship you share has changed, and that will go a long way with your loved one.

Fear Of Death

It’s no surprise that cancer patients are afraid of death in one way or another. Some share their fear of death while others don’t talk about it. Some even say they are accepting of their possible fate. No matter what they show on the outside, cancer patients have at the very least thought about the last days of their life, and more importantly what is to come after.

A cancer diagnosis in many cases makes the possibility of passing soon more of a reality, and what many wouldn’t think about until they are much older comes rushing in no matter what age they are. The cancer patient must have thoughts of death because the possibility of passing is so much more real to them. They are told by doctors, by family and friends, by the people of the internet, that there is a higher chance that they could pass at any time. So it is indeed very likely that they would have fears of death at a much higher rate than the average person. Some thoughts include what will happen to them once they do pass on. Will they live in an afterlife? Will they be reincarnated? Will nothing at all happen and they just won’t exist anymore? Thoughts like this become all too true and real to the cancer patient, so it’s important to know that these thoughts, worries, and maybe even fears are on their mind at some point or another.

Fear Of Recurrence

What if the patient’s cancer has been beat? What if everyone has high hopes for the patient winning their cancer fight? What if the doctors believe their cancer can be treated? These can all be very hopeful ideas for the cancer patient, however, while these hopes of remission can be great things, what can appear in the mind of a cancer patient is, “If I beat this cancer, what if it comes back?”

You may think that a patient beating cancer would be the best thing they could ask for.

However, the cancer patient just went through a time where people treated them differently, where it seemed at times there was no hope, where treatment made them sicker, where some doubted them, while others disappeared and maybe reappeared into their life. They just went through so much, and usually, when the patient becomes free from cancer, there is a huge weight lifted off the shoulders of everyone who was even a little bit involved in the cancer patient’s life. 

Everyone becomes happy, joyous, free from worry. But it’s this release of worry and fear that causes the cancer patient to fear even more the chance that this could all happen again. And this fear is a big one because it can include all the fears mentioned before wrapped up into one big, “What if?”

About the Author

When my best friend was diagnosed with Cancer, I wanted to give her a care package to let her know I was thinking of her. I was just guessing at what to include and I learned a lot about what can be both useful and meaningful to someone walking their cancer journey. My own frustration led me to start Help Them Fight to create a resource for others going through the same situation.