You may have several different feelings when you are told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:
- frightened and uncertain
- angry and resentful
You may feel some or all these feelings. Or you may feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.
Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.
You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.
Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.
Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.
Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.
Talking to other people
Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.
It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.
Help your family and friends by letting them know if you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.
You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.
Your specialist nurse can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information.
Coping physically and emotionally
Vaginal cancer and its treatment are likely to cause some physical problems. These might affect the way you feel about yourself. It may also affect the way you relate to other people, especially close family and friends.
Tiredness (fatigue) and lethargy can be a problem during and after cancer treatment. Resting but also doing some gentle physical activity can help. Fatigue can also be an issue with advanced cancer.
Having your womb removed (hysterectomy)
Some people might have their womb removed as part of their treatment for vaginal cancer. You may feel a sense of loss or find that the operation makes you feel less feminine. It may take you time to get over these feelings. You might find it helpful to talk things through with your specialist nurse or close family and friends.
Loss of fertility
Removing your womb means that you will no longer be able to get pregnant. If you wanted to have a child or to complete your family, a hysterectomy can be very difficult to cope with.
Even if you were not planning to have any children in the future, the loss of your fertility can be quite a shock.
It is the end of a particular phase of your life. You'll have all the feelings that come with a natural change of life, as well as having to cope with a diagnosis of cancer.
Some women with vaginal cancer may have their ovaries removed as part of their operation to remove the cancer. In younger women, this brings on an early menopause. Symptoms include hot flushes and sweats. Your nurse will talk to you about how to cope with these symptoms.
Your relationships and sex life
The physical changes you have can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things you can do to manage this.
You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:
- money matters
- financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
- work issues
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.
Our coping practically section has more information about all these issues.
Help and support is available. It might help you to share your worries or sense of loss with others who have been through similar experiences.
You could also get in touch with one of the organisations that support people with vaginal cancer. Or make contact with people through an online forum such as Cancer Chat.
NHS website has a service that tells you about local information and support.