Learning that you have cancer is a very difficult, life-changing experience. You may feel anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed and wonder how you can cope during the days ahead. According to the Mayo Clinic, knowing what to expect and making plans for how to proceed can help you through this uniquely stressful time.
Get the Facts About Your Condition
You need basicinformation about your cancer to make decisions regarding your care. Prepare questions for your doctor like:
What kind of cancer do I have?
Where is the cancer?
Has it spread?
Is my cancertreatable?
What are my treatment options?
How will treatment benefit me?
What can I expect during treatment?
Can it cure my cancer?
Do I need other tests or procedures?
When should I call my healthcare team?
How can I prevent my cancer from recurring?
Are my children or other family members likely to get cancer?
Consider how much you want to know about your cancer. Request all the facts and details ifyou plan to be very involved in the decision-making process. Or, learn the basics and ask your doctors to handle the details and decisions. Take a relative or friend with you to your first few or all doctor appointments to help you remember everything you hear.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Cancer affects all of your relationships, and a strong support system is essential. Honest two-way communication with your doctors and loved onescan reduce the worry and fear that cancer can cause. Instead of putting up a brave front, share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns.By expressing emotions candidly, everyone can gain strength from each other.
Anticipate Possible Physical Changes
Before you begin treatment,discover what changes you should expect. If you’ll experience hair loss, consider how wigs,makeup, hairpieces, hats, and scarves may help you feel more comfortable and attractive. Cancer support groups offer tips that have benefited other patients.Your insurance plan may provide coverage for wigs, prostheses, and other adaptive devices.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Smart choicescan improve your energy level. Eat a nutritious diet with a wide variety of foods. Recent data shows that people who maintain some physical exercise during treatment can cope better and live longer. Get adequate rest to help you manage the stress and fatigue of the cancer and its treatment.
Let Friends and Family Help
Your loved ones may volunteer to run errands, provide transportation, prepare meals, and handle household chores. Accepting help allows those who care about you to makecontributions at a difficult time. Encourage your family to accept support as well. A cancer diagnosis adds stress to the entire family, especially primary caregivers. Welcoming assistance with from family, friends, and neighbors can avoid caregiver burnout.
Review Your Priorities
Try to maintain your normal lifestyle, but be open to modifying it as necessary. Ask your doctor how treatment and tests will disrupt your daily routine. You may have frequent medical appointments and need to spend time in the hospital. Make arrangements if your treatment will require a leave of absence from your regular duties.When the future is uncertain, organizing and planning may seem overwhelming.Take one day at a time. Determine what’s truly important in your life, and find time for the most meaningful aspects and enjoyable activities.
Get Help with Your Finances
Many unexpected financial burdens can arise with a cancer diagnosis. Your treatment may require extended time away from work or home. Costs for medical care, medications, medical devices, traveling for treatment, and parking fees can add up fast.Save up to 90 percent by orderingyour prescriptions from an online pharmacy that you can trust.Many clinics and hospitals provide listsof resources that help patients financially during and after treatment.
Consult Other Cancer Patients
You may feel as if people who haven’t had cancer can’t understand fullyhow you’re feeling. Talking to people who have been in your situationmay help. Cancer survivors can share their experiences and give you insights into what to expect. Your doctor or local American Cancer Societychapter can direct you to support groupsin your area. Or try online message boards like the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network.
Fight Lingering Stigmas
Friends may wonder if your cancer is contagious. Colleagues might doubt that you’re healthy enough to do your job.Some people may withdraw for fear of saying the wrong thing. Many will have questions and concerns.Determine how you’ll deal with others’ reactions and behaviors. Most likely, they’ll take their cues from you. Ease their discomfort by telling people that even if cancer is a frightening part of your life, it shouldn’t make them afraid to be around you.
Depend on Previously Comforting Strategies
Whatever comforted you through rough times before your cancer diagnosis will help ease your worries now. Turn to your familiar comforts while also being open to trying new coping strategies like:
Practicing relaxation techniques
Sharing your feelings honestly with family, friends, a spiritual adviser, or counselor
Keeping a journal to help organize your thoughts
Listing pros and cons when making difficult decisions
Finding a source of spiritual support
Setting aside time to be alone
Remaining involved with work and leisure activities as much as possible