Cancer Emotional Survival 101: Tips for Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones

Started by Leida, June 26, 2015
3 replies for this topic
Leida

Member
558 Posts
Posted on
June 26, 2015
Back in the day, there were summaries of classical books and plays that provide a summarized version of the complete story (these summaries acutally still exist today). Here is the short summary of suggestions for someone newly diagnosed with cancer as written by me, someone who has been through breast cancer and melanoma.

Every cancer and every cancer patient are unique, and there are no true shortcuts through cancer. I wish there were. Still, I am hoping these ideas will help you. These are the thoughts I wish I could have heard and used to cope with the feelings of a cancer diagnosis right after hearing the words “You have cancer.” Maybe they will help you or someone you love. Here is the short list summary:

Allow yourself to cry and experience whatever you are feeling. Cancer is a life-changer. You are completely allowed. The feelings can be long-term and intense. This is hard stuff. Working through the feelings may work better than stuffing them and having them come out at friends and family in strange ways.

Don’t do cancer alone. Connect with a fellow survivor, a support group, a family member or friend and/or someone further out with a similar cancer. Tell your faith community what is happening to you. Cherish your connections with those who want to help you. Connect with as many as you can for support — especially at initial diagnosis and active treatment, but even after, as needed.

Ask for help. Accept help. Don’t be shy about explaining what you need (a meal, a ride or a hug) when loved ones offer to help. They want to help but they may not know how to help. Be specific. Reach out to organizations that help support cancer survivors too.

Assemble a medical team you believe in and trust ... and then trust them. Ask people around you for doctor references. Research. Take questions and notes to the doctors. Write down the answers or have someone with you to do it for you.

Follow the “do what works for you” philosophy for coping emotionally before, during and after active cancer treatment to comfort yourself. This is going to be a challenging time that you need to get through. That said, do follow the doctors’ instructions and do keep the doctors posted on what you are doing and how you are doing. You don’t want to do or eat anything that works against the treatment plan.

Give yourself the same courtesies you would give a friend in the same situation:
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Give yourself the gift of time whenever you possibly can. Focus on things that are really good at distracting you from your cancer and on things that slow down the thoughts racing through your mind.
  • Help yourself however you can — tears, walking, journaling, meditating, finding comfort under a favorite blanket, connecting with nature, distraction ... you may find that different things work for you at different times. Be open to a learning process of what is helpful to you.
Coping with the emotions of cancer really can’t be reduced to a list of suggestions. If I had been handed a list at the time of diagnosis or shortly after that, I don’t know if it would have helped me or if I would even have been ready to actually hear those suggestions. Coping emotionally with cancer is a long-term process. Cancer is a journey. Everyone’s journey is a little bit different. Still, it is my hope these ideas help you. I hope other survivors chime in in the discussion board with ideas that helped them too.
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BarbaraTako

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
June 26, 2015
Back in the day, there were summaries of classical books and plays that provide a summarized version of the complete story (these summaries acutally still exist today). Here is the short summary of suggestions for someone newly diagnosed with cancer as written by me, someone who has been through breast cancer and melanoma.

Every cancer and every cancer patient are unique, and there are no true shortcuts through cancer. I wish there were. Still, I am hoping these ideas will help you. These are the thoughts I wish I could have heard and used to cope with the feelings of a cancer diagnosis right after hearing the words “You have cancer.” Maybe they will help you or someone you love. Here is the short list summary:

Allow yourself to cry and experience whatever you are feeling. Cancer is a life-changer. You are completely allowed. The feelings can be long-term and intense. This is hard stuff. Working through the feelings may work better than stuffing them and having them come out at friends and family in strange ways.

Don’t do cancer alone. Connect with a fellow survivor, a support group, a family member or friend and/or someone further out with a similar cancer. Tell your faith community what is happening to you. Cherish your connections with those who want to help you. Connect with as many as you can for support — especially at initial diagnosis and active treatment, but even after, as needed.

Ask for help. Accept help. Don’t be shy about explaining what you need (a meal, a ride or a hug) when loved ones offer to help. They want to help but they may not know how to help. Be specific. Reach out to organizations that help support cancer survivors too.

Assemble a medical team you believe in and trust ... and then trust them. Ask people around you for doctor references. Research. Take questions and notes to the doctors. Write down the answers or have someone with you to do it for you.

Follow the “do what works for you” philosophy for coping emotionally before, during and after active cancer treatment to comfort yourself. This is going to be a challenging time that you need to get through. That said, do follow the doctors’ instructions and do keep the doctors posted on what you are doing and how you are doing. You don’t want to do or eat anything that works against the treatment plan.

Give yourself the same courtesies you would give a friend in the same situation:
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Give yourself the gift of time whenever you possibly can. Focus on things that are really good at distracting you from your cancer and on things that slow down the thoughts racing through your mind.
  • Help yourself however you can — tears, walking, journaling, meditating, finding comfort under a favorite blanket, connecting with nature, distraction ... you may find that different things work for you at different times. Be open to a learning process of what is helpful to you.
Coping with the emotions of cancer really can’t be reduced to a list of suggestions. If I had been handed a list at the time of diagnosis or shortly after that, I don’t know if it would have helped me or if I would even have been ready to actually hear those suggestions. Coping emotionally with cancer is a long-term process. Cancer is a journey. Everyone’s journey is a little bit different. Still, it is my hope these ideas help you. I hope other survivors chime in in the discussion board with ideas that helped them too.
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Emma

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
June 27, 2015
These are all good suggestions, thanks for your piece. My personal reaction was first to wait, to give myself time to observe how I felt, then I went into research mode and began to understand more about what had transpired. Thank goodness for online research! Once you become adept at sorting the wheat from the chaff in result lists, it can be very helpful and supportive to feel like you understand your unique situation fully. We often neglect to do the things that matter most to us, and one of the greatest benefits of hearing the 'You have cancer' declaration is that from that moment on, you have a sense of how precious every moment is. That doesn't mean that small inconveniences won't still cause annoyance, just that a clearer perspective will be factored in for a better balance.
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Fifth Season Financial

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 01, 2015
These are great tips. I would also add seeking financial help sooner rather than later. Sometimes, the financial stress from cancer can be more harmful than good. The sooner you can get financial help, the more you can focus on the really important things, like your care, your family, and your quality of life.
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RA

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 01, 2015
I agree with everything. I think the most important items were to share my pain with family, friends, and church instead of trying to deal with it myself and being patient with myself. Thanks for the article.
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