From Combatting to Coping: Shifting Focus to Life After Treatment

UW Carbone Cancer Center psychologist Lori Dubenske explains the challenges of transitioning to life after cancer treatment



During cancer treatment, patients and their caregivers are often actively doing something – going to appointments, taking notes during appointments or following medication plans. Focusing their activity on treatment is one way patients may cope with the changes that come with their diagnosis.


“There’s a lot of focus early on on action-based coping, and having a regimen, a target goal or these things we’re pacing through that often gets us through the initial stress,” says Lori DuBenske, PhD, a cancer psychologist with the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s Cancer Psychology Clinic. “At some point, that action slows down and patients are faced with the uncertainty of when or if the tumor is going to come back or if they’ll recover from the side effects of treatment, and they often have a lot of difficult emotions that come from the change.”


Evolving Brain Tumor Treatment and Care Workshop: May 5


Free event for people living with malignant, benign or metastatic brain tumors, their families and caregivers.


More information and register


DuBenske will be speaking to this change, “From Combatting to Coping” at UW Carbone’s annual Evolving Brain Tumor Treatment and Care Workshop, held Saturday, May 5 at University Hospital’s main campus.


“After treatment, our focus for coping needs to be shifted toward how do we deal with the emotions that we’re left with from this uncertainty?” DuBenske says. “There are a lot of different ways that we can cope with the emotional piece, and with emotion-focused coping, we think of all the different ways we help address our feelings.”


Some of these emotion-focused coping strategies include social support with friends or other cancer survivors, relaxation strategies such as yoga or breathing techniques, or emotion expression through techniques such as journaling.


When working with patients, DuBenske helps them to make decisions toward which coping strategies they can take. Often, their coping includes a mix of the action-based techniques and emotion-based ones.


“It’s helpful to give people a start when they’re feeling stuck, and being able to offer a framework to decide which types of strategies may work for them in their current situation,” DuBenske says.


Though DuBenske is speaking at the brain care event, she notes the topic is relevant to patients and caregivers of any type of cancer.


“There’s nothing specific to brain tumors about this topic, these are general kinds of coping strategies that as psychologists in the Cancer Center we teach people about all the time,” DuBenske said. “We help to identify strategies that often work well for someone in their situation, even though the specifics may differ from person to person.”


The brain tumor workshop will provide empowering information for people living with malignant, benign or metastatic brain tumors, and their families and caregivers. The event is free and open to the public, but participants are encouraged to register.


UW Carbone’s Cancer Psychology Clinic is available to all Cancer Center patients and caregivers. Please contact the clinic directly or speak with a member of your clinical care team if you wish to seek psychology services, and consult with your health insurance provider to see what coverage they provide.




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Date Published: 04/04/2018

News tag(s):  cancerAdvanceslori l dubenske

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