After the Cancer Diagnosis: Preparing for What Lies Ahead

After the Cancer Diagnosis Preparing for What Lies Ahead

What comes after the initial shock? Learn about the next steps to take.

Hearing the words “You have cancer” changes your life forever. For most people, it’s the start of a long and often difficult journey. If you’ve just been diagnosed, this information may help you prepare for what lies ahead.

Accept the feelings

Once the first shock is over, most people have a range of feelings. Some common ones include:

  • Denial (“It’s not true.”)
  • Anger (“I don’t deserve this.”)
  • Fear (“I don’t want to die.”)
  • Guilt (“I should have taken better care of myself.”)

You’re likely to have some or all of these emotions at one time or another. Or you may have different feelings altogether. There are no right or wrong feelings at a time like this.

It’s perfectly normal to feel sad or down for a while. But sadness can be a problem if it turns into depression. Depression could keep you from making good choices and getting the treatment you need. If you feel very sad or hopeless for more than two weeks, tell your doctor. Depression can be treated.

Get support

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be a lonely experience. You may feel like no one can understand what you’re going through. Family and friends may mean well but not know what to say. They may be just as scared and worried as you are.

It can be hard to talk about feelings. But getting them out in the open may help you feel stronger.

  • Talk to your loved ones. Sharing how you feel may bring you closer to them.
  • Find a support group. Ask your doctor or call a local hospital. Talking to other people who have cancer is often a big relief.
  • Look for other ways to express your feelings. It may help to write in a journal, start a cancer blog or talk to a tape recorder or video camera. Later, you can share your thoughts with those close to you if you want.

Learn about your cancer

For many people, the worst feeling is the sense that their life has spun out of control. Learning all you can about your cancer and possible treatments can help you regain a sense of control. You’ll also be able to make better decisions if you’re well informed.

Here are some ways to learn what you need to know:

  • Ask lots of questions and take notes. You can learn a lot about cancer from your doctors and nurses. Don’t be afraid to ask them to use simpler words. You have a right to understand your condition. Ask a family member or friend to write down what your doctor says.
  • Get expert information. There’s a lot of information out there about cancer, but not all of it is good. Go to a trusted source with in-depth information such as the National Cancer Institute.
  • Consider a second opinion. Once your doctor has proposed a treatment plan, get another doctor to review it. It’s common practice to seek a second opinion. Talking to a second doctor can help you understand more about your cancer and the best way to treat it.

Remember, there are more than 10 million cancer survivors in the U.S. With new and better treatments coming out all the time, there is good reason to be hopeful.

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