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Tips For Cancer Newbies From A Two-Time Survivor

A breast cancer and melanoma survivor offers ideas to help newly diagnosed cancer patients cope and get through their cancer.
PUBLISHED September 14, 2017
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Everyone is different, and everyone’s cancer is unique to them. The bad news is that someone else’s success story may not be your story. But the good news is that not everyone else’s bad ending will be yours. Think about it. A lot of people bother to post and talk on the Internet only when things are not going well for them. They are naturally worried and have fears and questions. Carefully consider what you read and hear. 

This brings me to my suggestions for cancer newbies:

Don’t believe everything you read. Like I just said, people aren’t good about posting when things are going well, and instead tend to post when things are tough. Consider the sources when you read on the Internet. When I stuck with major cancer resources and major hospitals and clinics for my information, I was happier in my own research for my own questions.

Connect with other cancer patients and survivors. The note above does not apply in all circumstances. Never do cancer alone, even if you typically consider yourself a loner. Look for a support group in person and/or online, as well as someone further out with a cancer similar to your own. Connect before, during and after active cancer treatment, if possible.

Let those sad, fearful feelings out. Let them out as long and as strong as you need. You are allowed to feel what you feel.

Allowing yourself to work through the feelings will help prevent those feelings from coming out sideways at family and friends. Cry it out as often as you have the need. Cancer is big.

Ask for and accept help. Be specific about what you need. If you need groceries, meals, errands, rides to appointments or anything else, let people who want to help know exactly what you need. People often want to help but they don’t know what you need most. Find reputable organizations in your area that help support cancer survivors too.

Create the best medical team for yourself that you can. Next, believe them and trust them. Write down your questions between appointments. Take questions and notes to the doctors. Consider bringing someone with you to appointments to take notes and/or be a second set of eyes and ears for you. Ask other people to help you with your research. Always follow doctors’ instructions and keep the doctors posted on what you do and how you are doing. You don’t want to do or eat anything that counteracts their best treatment plan for you.  Be sure they know what vitamins and supplements you are taking.

Be kind and gentle to yourself. Go to whatever is and has always been personally comforting to you. It could be distraction (television, going outside, a movie, shopping, etc.) or anything that takes you out of your cancer worry brain for a while so you get little breaks from cancer. As someone prone to negative self-talk, I had to learn to give myself the same comfort that I could imagine giving to a friend in the same situation. Baby steps. You will get there and other members of the cancer community are here to help you!
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