How to cope with a cancer diagnosis
How to Cope With Cancer
Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. If you are dealing with cancer, then you might be having physical and mental health challenges. Coping with cancer can be exhausting, painful, and frightening. It is important to find a support system. You can also do things to care for your body. Cancer is tough, but there are ways that you can cope.
Dealing With the Diagnosis
Take time to process the news.Learning that you have cancer is a very emotional experience. It is common to feel a wide range of emotions. Many people feel shock, anger, fear, and disbelief.
- This is life-changing news. Allow your self some time to react to the diagnosis.
- Don't feel like you have to make any decisions right away. Give yourself a few days to process your feelings before you start making any important choices about treatment.
- Allow yourself to be emotional. Don't become frustrated with yourself if you find yourself suddenly crying or feeling angry. That is normal.
Do your research.Finding out that you have cancer is very scary. Many people deal better with new circumstances when they arm themselves with as much information as possible. It might help you cope if you start learning about your cancer and possible treatments.
- Seek reliable, up to date information. Science and medicine can change quickly, so make sure you are given the most recent information.
- Ask your doctor to talk to you thoroughly about your particular type of cancer. Each will have a unique experience with cancer.
- Get recommendations for reputable websites. For example, Cancer.org and Cancer.gov can provide a lot of information.
Communicate with your loved ones.Your cancer is personal. You shouldn't feel pressured to immediately share the news of your diagnosis with everyone that you know. But you might find some solace in talking to people you are close to.
- If you have a spouse or partner, you will want to have a serious conversation with that person. Tell them about your diagnosis, and also tell them how you are feeling.
- Remember that everyone reacts differently. It might take your spouse or best friend a little while to adjust to the news. Remember that shock and denial are normal reactions.
- Tell your family what you need from them. For example, it is fine to say, "I need a little bit of space to deal with my feelings."
- It is also okay to say that you need extra support. Try saying, "I am going to need a lot of extra attention and affection for a while. Thanks for understanding."
Acknowledge changes to your daily life.Cancer can change everything. You might have some new physical limitations. You will also likely deal with a lot of emotions.
- One of the first steps in coping is to recognize that there will probably be changes in your daily routine. For example, you might need to cut back on your hours at work.
- Many cancer patients deal with fatigue. It is understandable if you can't work as many hours as you used to.
- Your treatment might require a lot of visits to the doctor's office. Acknowledge that you might have to cut back on some of your other activities to make time for treatment.
- Cancer can also be a significant financial burden. Talk to your spouse about your insurance plan and how you will pay for any additional costs.
Create an individual coping strategy.Cancer affects each person differently. What works for some may not work for others. Take some time to think about what you need to help you cope most effectively.
Taking Care of Your Body
Talk to your doctor.Everyone's body reacts differently to cancer. Your symptoms will also depend on what type of cancer you have. However, it is likely that you will deal with many physical changes. Finding ways to feel physically better can help you handle your illness.
- Your doctor will be one of your greatest resources. After you have processed the initial diagnosis, schedule a follow-up appointment.
- Prepare a list of questions to ask. Writing them down ahead of time will help you remember key points.
- You can ask things such as, "How will this affect my energy levels and my appetite?" You could also say, "Are there any physical restrictions I should be aware of?"
- You may also want to ask about your short-term and long-term prognosis. Ask your doctor to be as honest and specific as possible.
Make a treatment plan.After you begin to understand your particular type of cancer, you can begin working to make a treatment plan. Many people feel better when they feel like they have a little bit of control over their medical care. Tell your doctor that you want to be involved in decision making.
- Discuss whether you are going to pursue the most aggressive treatment possible. Sometimes surgery is an option but comes with risks.
- Talk to your doctor about all of your options. Give yourself time to think about each possible course of treatment.
- Involve your partner or a close family member in your decision-making process. It can be beneficial to have some advice from a person you are close to.
- Ask your partner to accompany you to your medical appointments. He or she can help you process all of the information you are taking in.
Manage your physical symptoms.Your treatment plan should also include ways to handle the day to day symptoms you will experience. Talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of your illness and medications. Make a plan to cope with anticipated physical symptoms.
- Many cancer patients deal with pain. Talk to your doctor about prescription pain killers and natural remedies.
- Loss of appetite is another common problem. Keep foods on hand that are easier to digest, such as soup and oatmeal.
- Chemotherapy drugs can cause fatigue. Allow yourself extra time to rest. You might also feel better if you can do light physical activity, such as taking a short walk.
- Your sex drive might suffer. Have an honest conversation with your partner about other ways to still have intimacy. Try extra hugging and cuddling.
Adopt healthy habits.It is important to try to be as healthy as possible when you are dealing with cancer. Your body needs plenty of nutrients to fight your illness. Try to eat a healthy diet.
- A balanced diet can help you fight fatigue. Try to eat whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.
- If you are having trouble keeping foods down, try eating some homemade vegetable soup. You'll get lots of nutrients and hopefully avoid upsetting your stomach.
- Remember to stay hydrated. Cancer medications can cause dry mouth and cracked skin, so it is important to drink as much water as possible.
- Get plenty of rest. Allow yourself to take naps as needed and go to bed as early as you like. Average adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. You may need more.
Accept help.Although it is frustrating, you may not be able to complete all of your regular tasks. It's okay to delegate some of your responsibilities. Allow your friends and family to help.
- When people offer to help, take them up on it. If your neighbor asks what she can do, it is perfectly fine to say, "It would be so helpful if you could pick up a few things for me the next time you are at the grocery store."
- Ask your partner to take over some extra responsibilities around the house. Maybe you've traditionally been the cook. It's okay to take some time off from making dinner.
- Talk to your boss about your situation. Explain that you may need to take a reduced role on some big projects.
Coping With Your Emotions
Find a support group.Many people find it helpful to talk to others in the same situation. Cancer support groups can be a wonderful resource. Consider joining one in your area.
- Ask your doctor for a recommendation. Many hospitals and treatment centers will have several groups to choose from.
- Try joining a group for people with your specific type of cancer. For example, if you are dealing with breast cancer, you might find it comforting to be around other women dealing with breast cancer.
- There are also online support groups. Your doctor or nurse might be able to guide you towards a good fit for you.
- Lean on friends and family. If you don't want to join a formal support group, let the people close to you know that you will need their support.
- There are also support groups for people whose loved one has cancer. That might be helpful for some of your family members.
Keep a journal.Dealing with cancer is a very emotional experience. You might feel overwhelmed by the wide range of feelings you are experiencing. Try tracking your thoughts in a journal.
- Writing down your thoughts can be very therapeutic. Don't worry about what you're writing--just get your feelings out honestly.
- Keeping a journal can also help you track patterns. For example, maybe you see that you are feeling most anxious the night before a chemo treatment.
- Finding patterns can help you figure out what is most bothering you. Then you can actively seek solutions.
Ease your anxiety.It is normal to feel very nervous when you are dealing with cancer. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of changes. Try to look for ways to reduce your tension.
- Mediation can be very helpful. Download an app on your phone that will allow you to listen to guided meditations.
- If you are physically capable, try doing some light yoga. It can help ease anxiety.
- Talk about your feelings. If your anxiety is causing problems such as insomnia, you might consider seeing a counselor.
Maintain a positive attitude.There is actually some research that shows that the power of positive thinking can actually help you deal with cancer. That does not mean that you need to put on a happy face all of the time. It doesn't mean that you need to try to find a silver lining about your situation.
- Keeping your spirits up means that you try not to let cancer mentally defeat you. Try saying to yourself, "This is hard, but I'll get through it."
- You can remain optimistic while being realistic. For example, you might think, "This is a road block in my life that is difficult. But I have a great support system, and I'm going to beat this."
- Ask your friends and family to try to remain as positive as possible. They don't need to offer you phoney platitudes, but they can offer you encouragement and support.
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- Remember that your emotions are valid. Do not let others tell you how you should feel.
- Listen to your body. Call your doctor when you need to.
- Don't be afraid to talk about your feelings.
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