She said she doesn’t think cancer survivors or patients are more prone to mental health issues than anyone else, but the situation of having cancer can lead to certain mental health issues.
“Self-esteem may go down; fear and anxiety are increased emotions; and feelings of helplessness,” Clifford said.
“But many of these mental health issues are experienced by others not going through a cancer experience, but may have lost their job, gotten divorced, or are dealing with the death of a loved one. We all experience mental health challenges in our everyday lives.”
Clifford has some coping tips for current survivors of cancers:
1) “Research all of the possibilities.”
2) “Don't be afraid to ask people for help.”
3) “Don't forget to laugh. Laughter is a healing force that takes your mind off your current situation; allows you to feel ‘normal’ again; and is good for your health.”
Looking at cancer as a positive change in life can also help give a new perspective to one’s situation.
“Many cancer patients and survivors come out of the experience and like me, feel that the experience was a gift,” Clifford said.
“It changed my life in so many positive ways: strengthened the bonds of my family; renewed my faith; taught me who my friends are -- and who they aren't; opened up new opportunities for me and creative avenues I never knew I had inside of me; and now has taken me around the world to share my message of hope, inspiration and laughter.”
“If my Guardian Angel landed on my shoulder and told me I could go back and change three things in my life, my cancer experience would not be one of them,” she added. “It truly changed my life for the better.”
Steve Havertz, a mental health counselor for over 20 years, experienced the death of his 9-year-old daughter due to a rare form of liver cancer. He has insight into the mental health connection.
“Fear creates anxiety and depression for many,” Havertz said. “I think it can exacerbate mental health issues, but at the same time those who are genetically predisposed to depression will become depressed as a result of any psychological stressor.”