Breathe…. You’ve been given the news that you have cancer, so now what? There are a million thoughts, emotions, feelings, and reactions that accompany a cancer diagnosis. I assure you any and ALL are normal reactions.
It’s important to learn about your cancer and ask questions. You will be sent to see a doctor who specializes in your specific cancer, called an oncologist. Depending on your cancer, you may first see a medical oncologist (a doctor who uses medicine), or a surgical oncologist (one who removes cancer using surgery). It is important to bring someone with you to this appointment who can take notes, while you listen.
I recommend making a list of questions to ask during your appointment. Ask for your specific type of cancer, and what stage it is (if known yet). Ask if there is a need for further tests before you can start treatment. Ask for treatment options recommended for you and the goal of each treatment. Ask the benefits, and risks involved, for each recommended treatment. Ask where you can get the treatment. It is important to be an active partner in your care. If you do not understand information, or options, or are not feeling comfortable with your doctor, or want a second opinion, speak up or find a person to help you early on.
There are multiple ways that your oncology team may recommend treating your cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation or even using a clinical trial. There also may be more testing needed to confirm the diagnosis and plan for your treatment.
In order to find immediate answers, many people use a web search. Instead of proving to be helpful, this activity is shown to increase anxiety for many. Which makes now the perfect time to ask for support. Support looks different for everyone. Family, friends, colleagues, or a nurse who specializes in working with cancer patients, are perfect support choices.
This is one of the most difficult things to face, one that takes us on a roller coaster of emotions from the minute you receive the news. I recommend journaling to my clients once they receive a cancer diagnosis. Writing out what you were told immediately following your diagnosis, and writing about what you feel. Continuing a journal throughout treatment can help you process your feelings plus be useful in tracking appointments, side effects, and any changes or questions you have along the way.
A cancer diagnosis can be as intense on one’s mental health, as the physical changes or side effects you experience, and will last longer if not supported. Going through cancer can be incredibly challenging. Keeping the mind healthy to support what is physically happening can help. Get informed about your specific cancer and what the journey will look like for you. This is not a one size fits all situation. Try not to compare your journey with someone else’s. Consider options from your provider, understand what is happening, and what to expect, and get support early, as you decide what is best for you.