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How Camp or Retreat Helps Cancer Patients

Cancer affects patients physically, mentally, and emotionally. All these aspects have to be addressed to promote overall wellness and healing. While there are physical treatments and therapy available for cancer patients, there are also activities and experiences especially tailored to help them, like cancer camps and retreat programs, and this is how they work.

Reduce anxiety

The gravity of their disease can cause cancer patients to feel anxious, and this can persist even in remission. The anxiety may even lead to withdrawal, fear, and depression.

Camps and retreats that are specifically designed for cancer patients and survivors provide opportunities to interact and connect with others who are in a similar situation, and learn healthy ways to cope with cancer. In these settings, patients can openly discuss the cancer they have, the side effects from treatments, and how they are dealing with it. By learning and sharing with other people who have similar experiences, patients may find it easier to maintain a positive outlook in life despite their illness.

Cope with physical changes

Aside from the psychological effects, cancer patients also go through changes in their physical appearance. Side effects from treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, will change their body image continuously, which often reduces their self-esteem. The visible disfigurements can feel alienating, and cause cancer patients to withdraw from society and feel as if they are socially unacceptable.

In cancer camp or retreat, patients get to realize that they are not alone and are accepted when they are surrounded by people like themselves. They get to interact with peers who have undergone or are undergoing similar physical changes. The experience can help them develop a better self-concept and improve their self-esteem. Patients can even discover new interests, enhance their skills, and build greater respect for themselves and their abilities. When they feel more competent and confident, they may be able to interact more with others, and have less anxiety in general.

Improve self-perception

The physical and psychological effects of cancer will change nearly every aspect of a patient’s life. Their relationships with other people may change, as well as their perception of themselves.

Cancer can also change patients’ areas of control and competence. Requiring constant care deprives them of control over daily routines, privacy, relationships with loved ones, and control over their own life. And having minimal control can be detrimental in promoting their own health. According to the locus of control theory, people who feel in control experience less anxiety and are motivated to take better care of themselves and improve their health behaviors.

Campers around the camp fire

Patients who go to cancer camps or retreats will have sufficient support and opportunities to have control over their experiences. They can choose which activities to participate in and gain a sense of normalcy. They are given the freedom to do things that help them understand their feelings and gain more autonomy. Their experiences in camps and retreats can let them to stay focused on their own interests, skills, values, and wellbeing, regardless of what others may think.

Cancer can be an extremely limiting disease. From diagnosis to treatment, patients tend to experience a constant sense of anxiety, alienation, and loss of agency over oneself. But a cancer camp or retreat can help them break through these limits, and prove that they are much more than their diagnosis.

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