Cancer may be one of the most widespread disease globally, but receiving a diagnosis still comes as a devastating blow.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimate that there were approximately 1,685,210 new cases of cancer in 2016 in the United States alone.
What are some practical ways that could help you to cope with the shock of a cancer diagnosis, and allow you to make the best decisions for yourself?
Understand your diagnosis
After the shattering diagnosis of cancer, the most important way of managing the disease it is to be strong and well-informed. Cancer is often surrounded by an impression of myth, and much of what we think we know may be wrong.
So, start by obtaining as much information as possible, from both your doctor and other reliable sources. Dany Bell — a UK-based specialist advisor on treatment and recovery told MNT;
“Being diagnosed with cancer can be a big shock, even if you already suspected you might have it. Cancer is a word that can stir up many fears and emotions,” adds Bell, “but making sure you fully understand your diagnosis can help you feel more in control of the situation.”
The NCI also list a set of suggested questions that you can discuss with your doctor about your diagnosis.
Talk to your doctor
The subject of cancer diagnosis is always a big issue. Therefore communicating with your physician might feel complicated. Both you and your doctor might find it difficult to communicate proficiently.
Dr. Ann O’Mara — head of Palliative Care Research in the NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention — told MNT that there is no magical recipe for success in these cases, but open communication is very vital to ensure that you get the information you need, and that your physician knows how you are dealing with with your diagnosis.
The NCI also offer detailed advice on how to approach your doctor in order to ensure the best and most effective communication.
Join a strong support network to discuss the issue. Anxiety and depression are often a natural effect after a cancer diagnosis. After all, there are so many unknown persons with similar diagnosis, and this is a journey that will certainly turn your life upside down. So it’s essential to count on a strong support network.
Tell closest friends and family
Bell told MNT that being able to depend on a good support network is always helpful, even though speaking to the people around you about your diagnosis may be a trial on its own.
“Telling friends and family you have cancer can be overwhelming, but many people find that having a good support network around them really helps. You may want to tell those closest to you first. After this, you might find it helpful to make a list of who you want to tell. If you like, you can ask someone you trust to tell people for you.”
Dr. O’Mara added that it’s vital to discuss about your diagnosis with your closest family and friends. ”
Moreover, the physical context in which you talk to others about your diagnosis is also important, Bell pointed out.
“Choose a time and place where you’ll have time to talk without being interrupted,” she advised. “Try to be honest about what you know — You may have to say if you are uncertain about anything, or can’t answer all their questions.”
Ask for help
It may be difficult for individuals newly diagnosed with cancer to solicit support, even though they may find that friends shower them with offers of assistance.
Dr. O’Mara suggested to ask for specific, practical help with small things, such as a lift to your next medical appointment, or a cooked meal. Small, targeted actions can go a long way.
Finding a dedicated support network
It may be helpful to locate a dedicated cancer support group online, or in your own community. There are many kinds of cancer support groups, which you may be able to trace through online searches or by speaking to your doctor.
U.K.-based consultant oncoplastic breast surgeon, Dr. Liz O’Riordan – who has experienced breast cancer said that online support networks should not be discounted either.
In her TED talk, she speaks about how she suddenly found much-needed emotional, as well as practical, support through social media.
Use anger and grief as a ‘lever’
When receiving a cancer diagnosis, reactions of grief and anger are normal feelings to experience, but don’t allow such emotions to be destructive.
The NCI say that, in addition to discussing your feelings with healthcare professionals and your trusted support group, it may help to keep a journal and write down your feelings, in order to fully process them.
Don’t let cancer take over your life
“You have cancer, but don’t let it have you,” Nance stated.
Cancer may be in your body and affecting the way that you live your life, but continuing some old activities that you enjoyed, or taking up some new handwork could help you to stay in touch with who you are outside of your health status.
The NCI suggest “looking for things you enjoy” and shifting more of your mental and emotional focus onto something pleasant and creative. Some gentle exercise, they say, might also prove useful.