Finding Balance

Take steps to ease your mind after a diagnosis of non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.

Being told that you have non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC)—or any kind of cancer—is unsettling. Here is some advice for regaining your emotional equilibrium:

  • Talk about your feelings. Ignore them and they can become overwhelming, so share your feelings with a trusted friend, supportive family member, or mental health professional (see below), says Daniela Wittmann, PhD, MSW, a clinical associate professor of urology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

  • Consider counseling. This step is particularly important if you can’t seem to shake anxiety, fear, or depression, says Alan D. Valentine, MD, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “The goal is to get to the point where you are managing the symptoms rather than having the symptoms manage you.”

  • Be well-informed. Select a doctor who welcomes your questions and invites you to be a partner in your treatment. Learn as much as you can about your diagnosis, proposed treatment plan, possible side effects, what to expect after treatment, and the likelihood of a recurrence. “Asking questions and getting answers can put some guardrails on the fear you have,” says Dr. Valentine.

  • Learn mindfulness meditation techniques. Or try guided imagery, tai chi, yoga, or other mind-body interventions that can increase your feelings of well-being, Dr. Wittmann advises. Check with your cancer treatment center to find out whether it offers these programs.

  • Keep a journal. Sometimes, you need a way to express yourself without holding back. Writing about your experiences can help you process your cancer journey, making it feel more manageable.

  • Do what you enjoy. It might lower your overall anxiety. Perhaps take a hot bath, read a funny book, watch a comedy. Focus on a hobby or some other activity that gives you pleasure.

  • Build some movement into your day. “Exercise can be an ‘anxiety sink’ in that the anxiety just flows out of you when you exercise,” says Dr. Valentine. “The better your body feels, the more easily you will be able to handle the side effects of treatment.”

  • Consider joining a support group. “Talking with others who are in the same situation makes you realize that you are not alone,” says Dr. Valentine. The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network hosts an online community where patients can give and receive support, as well as share information with one another. The American Bladder Cancer Society also hosts an online forum for patients and caregivers.