Ill health can ruin many life experiences; it can drain your energy and lower your interest in activities you previously enjoyed.
However, sufficient support can help you recover and cope well with the challenge. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness like cancer can be a lot worse and more traumatic for the patient and the family.
The initial news of the diagnosis can be particularly saddening. It may make you and your family anxious, overwhelmed, sad, and afraid about the future.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis
Anticipation about the future and fear of having limited time left is common. However, the right advice and support can assist you in overcoming the shock and dealing with the symptoms effectively.
Each patient faces a different situation, but it is possible to adopt certain practices to minimize stress.
Following are some valuable tips for patients diagnosed with cancer to deal with the situation in the most positive way possible:
Gather as much information as you can
An unfamiliar problem is more frightening than the one you know well about. Information empowers you greatly and makes you feel confident about the situation.
Therefore, involve yourself in getting information from your doctors about the diagnosis. Having the support of friends or family while you talk to the doctor will help.
Ask the team of healthcare providers assigned to you as much as you can think of at the time and bring questions for later too.
What type of cancer are you diagnosed with? How much has it spread? Which organs are affected? What treatment options exist, and what are the possible side effects?
If the type of cancer is rare and cannot be treated at the facility you currently are in, who should you consult to get help with treatment?
All such questions will clear things for you and let you get the whole picture; it is much better than being in the dark about your condition.
Accept your feelings as a natural response
You are likely to experience a range of emotions, from shock, panic, anxiety, and lack of control to anger, sadness, depression, guilt, and loneliness.
It is all-natural, so do not try to suppress such feelings through unhealthy coping mechanisms like denial.
Acknowledge your emotions and then adopt ways to deal with them. Use healthy coping strategies like journal writing, meditation, exercise, walking, etc. It is a good idea to talk it out with someone you trust.
It will also be challenging to come to terms with the reaction of your friends and family. Take it as a natural response and talk to them openly.
Prepare your mind for physical changes
Inevitably, there will be an effect on your physical health, especially if the cancer is in the later stages.
Being prepared for these changes can minimize distress to a great extent. Even if you currently feel healthy, talk to your healthcare providers about imminent changes so that you can cope with them well when the time comes.
You must also be prepared to deal with the possible side effects of treatment. For instance, some drugs used for cancer treatment cause severe hair loss.
You might want to look for a wig if that makes you feel more comfortable. Some other common side effects cancer patients report include appetite loss, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, sleep disturbances, bladder problems, fertility issues or loss, etc.
Ask the doctors about the extent to which you will be able to continue your daily routine following treatment initiation. To what extent will the physical changes affect your ability to go to work, etc.
Seek the assistance of a professional counselor
No matter how self-sufficient you believe yourself to be, everyone needs some professional advice every once in a while.
If you do not feel comfortable talking to your loved ones openly, venting your emotions to a counselor is a good alternative.
They can offer valuable advice and helpful feedback. A counselor skilled in dealing with the feelings you are likely to be experiencing can help you with effective coping strategies.
Also, with a counselor, you’ll be able to open up about how you feel and what you yearned for throughout life. They’re the only people who will listen to you and offer you valuable feedback.
At this stage, you’ll need to talk to people and hear back from them without being judged about how you perceive things, so give it a shot.
Develop a support group
It would surprise you how liberating it can be to talk to someone who understands you and your inner turmoil.
Not everyone responds well; you might receive unhelpful advice, unsympathetic or uncomfortable questions, and unexpected reactions.
However, if you connect with other people you trust or who have gone through the same turmoil as you, you will feel understood.
You can connect with a community of other people who have cancer via online or physical support groups.
Research has found that support groups can help cancer patients overcome depression and anxiety. In such support groups, you will feel less lonely and less misunderstood.
However, keep in mind that not everyone benefits from joining a support group. If you are an introvert and don’t feel comfortable discussing personal problems, you might not like joining a large group where you feel exposed.
It is best to research well before joining any such community. Sometimes, people join support groups without finding out what they’re about. This is when there are problems.
At this stage, you’ll need to be in a place and around people who will understand and comfort you. It would be best to gather as much knowledge as possible about these groups and talk to members before you decide on joining them.
A cancer diagnosis can be very traumatic for an unsuspecting patient with many plans for the future. It is challenging to cope with the prospect of a chronic illness and its effect on one’s lifestyle.
However, there are ways you can cope well with a cancer diagnosis. Educate yourself about the situation, accept your feelings, don’t bottle up your emotions, prepare for physical changes, and join a support group.
This way, you can deal with the change in circumstances and better cope with the unexpected emotions inevitable after a cancer diagnosis.
Though cancer doesn’t mean that it’s the end, for you, it could be a new beginning to do what you wanted all along. You can go anywhere, be anyone, and fulfill your life the way you always wanted to.
Sometimes, people fall into depression and stop living, despite being alive. Don’t be like that. It can be traumatic and terrible, and knowing you have cancer can be very depressing, but if you fight, you can defeat it.
Nothing is impossible. When people die, the world remembers them; this is your time to do something unique for those to remember you.