For many people, one of their biggest fears is being diagnosed with cancer, and with more than 1 in 3 people developing cancer at some point in their lifetime the chances of this fear coming true are relatively high. However, with recent and ongoing advancements in cancer treatments and diagnosis techniques the C-word doesn’t always mean mortality.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer it sets them off on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. Once the initial feeling of shock has subsided a myriad of feelings can be experienced, including sadness, fear, guilt, anger, confusion, denial, stress, anxiety and depression. All of these feelings are perfectly normal so it’s fine to allow yourself to feel them. However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to struggle alone on your emotional rollercoaster.
Building a support network
Establishing a good support network is one of the best things you can do when you are diagnosed with cancer. A good mix of family, friends, medical professionals and fellow cancer patients will offer everything you could want from a support network.
Friends and family: It can be difficult to break the news to family and friends as you don’t want to upset them, but they are the ones closest to you so they form the emotional support you need. Your friends and family are there to wipe your tears when you cry, give you a much needed hug and do nice things to help take your mind off your treatment. They can also attend appointments with you for moral support and to ask questions to the doctor when your mind is buzzing from information overload.
Hospital staff: The doctors and nurses in the cancer unit at the hospital are trained and experienced in dealing with all aspects of cancer. They can answer any questions you may have, offer advice and support and provide medical care to ease your pain and make you more comfortable.
Support centres/groups: The hospital staff at your cancer centre will be able to advise you on the support facilities within your local community. As much as your friends or family want to help you, if they’ve not been through the same thing then you can end up feeling quite alone. A support group can help to introduce you to other people who have been through or are going through cancer, chemotherapy, radiotherapy etc. Joining some support forums online can help too as you can connect with even more patients and survivors who can share their stories and help to remind you that you’re not alone.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer it can feel as though you’re losing control of your life and your own destiny, so it’s important to be proactive and try to take back some of that control.
Be organised: Set up a folder to store any information and literature that you are given from the hospital and from your support groups. Keep a notebook handy and jot down any questions that you have so that they’re on hand when you see your doctor or nurse next. It’s also a good idea to keep a diary so that you can keep on track with all of your appointments and remember when to pick up your prescriptions etc.
Take care of yourself: Your physical and mental health and wellbeing are more important than ever right now so it’s important not to neglect them. Make sure that you allow plenty of time for rest and relaxation and try to get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, and do some gentle exercise like walking or swimming to keep your energy levels up and give you something to fill your days with.
Try to stay positive: It can be all too easy to let negative thoughts take over and spiral into depression so it’s important to actively counter your negative thoughts with positive ones. Cancer can often make people re-evaluate their lives and start living them to the full. It’s important to carry on seeing friends and family and doing the things that make you happy. Be proud of yourself, you’re strong, courageous and an inspiration to others!