It finally happened. The diagnosis we all dread. You or someone you love has cancer.
There’s no sugarcoating this diagnosis. There are some types of cancer that have a better prognosis and some that are downright terrifying.
No matter what type of cancer you’re dealing with, you’re going to have to face it. When we’re faced with something scary, we all want to bury our heads in the sand until it goes away. Unfortunately, that rarely works.
Instead of hiding or, worse, getting angry, you need to find a coping strategy that gets you through the hard times. Any or all of these 11 tips have worked for others, and they could help you, too.
1. Understand the Diagnosis
Part of the stress you’re dealing with comes from uncertainty. Get clear about the facts about this type of cancer. Write down every question that pops into your head, even if you think it’s dumb.
The answers aren’t always going to be what you want to hear, but concrete facts stop your imagination from going wild.
2. Be Honest, But Not Overly So
Your family and friends do need to know about the diagnosis. If it’s yours, you can keep it to yourself for a few days as you process the information and until you get some hard facts.
If it’s your loved ones, let them lead you as to when to be open about the problem and what to say.
What you tell each person should be honest, but not everyone needs all the details. How much information you give your niece, who’s a nurse, will be different from what you tell your 10-year-old grandson.
Stick with honesty, though. Lies will end up hurting the other person more later.
3. Don’t Isolate Yourself
A cancer diagnosis does make it hard to go out and enjoy social activity. However, isolating yourself can be a quick way to spiral into depression.
Try to find a balance between enjoying your daily life and handling the condition. This will get harder as you go if the symptoms worsen.
Look for the places you can have fun. A positive attitude truly makes a huge difference in your recovery.
4. Find a Support Group
There are cancer support groups online and in-person all over the world. If possible, find one that deals directly with the cancer diagnosis you’re facing. Those people will be able to help you understand what to expect and whether the symptoms you have are normal.
More than anything else, a cancer support group reminds you that you’re not alone. Some people will have it worse than you do, others will have a more mild condition. No matter what, it will make you feel better to be able to talk to people who understand what you’re going through.
5. Anticipate the Symptoms
Will you have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation? What other treatment options are available? What are the side effects?
Don’t be afraid to ask all these questions and more. You’ll feel better when you can plan for what’s going to happen down the road.
For instance, knowing you’ll end up losing your hair with chemo gives you time to have a wig made from your natural tresses. And if your cancer is known to be painful, you can seek out other pain relievers to try to avoid prescription narcotics and opioids.
6. Stick to a Healthy Lifestyle
The healthier you are, the easier it is for your immune system to do its thing. A balanced, nutritious diet provides your body the fuel it needs to combat the cancer cells and any other germs that try to attack you.
For as long as you can, make sure you get some exercise every day. Stick to a routine, get restful sleep, and stay away from unhealthy habits.
7. Set Boundaries
As you deal with the consequences of cancer, it’ll be important to reprioritize the things in your life. What is worth dealing with, and what needs to take a backseat?
It may be hard to say no at first, but boundary-setting gives you the energy you need to focus on healing. Fill your day with things that make you feel happy.
8. Plan Financially
Cancer isn’t a diagnosis that you can deal with in one or two doctor visits. Some people fight their condition for years, and the medical bills and expenses pile up fast.
Hopefully, you have insurance that covers your treatment. Sit down with an insurance adjuster and find out exactly what your share of the costs will be and what is/isn’t included.
Get to know your monthly budget and, if you can’t work, how you’ll make ends meet. The answers may not be fun, but knowing ahead helps you prepare.
9. Find a Coping Strategy
Putting on a happy face only gets you so far. Sometimes, you’re not going to feel like facing the day, or you’ll want to give up. When that happens, you should have a coping strategy to turn to.
Here are some expert-recommended ideas:
- Go for regular mental health sessions
- Talk to your family and friends (don’t isolate yourself)
- Write your thoughts in a journal
- Get spiritual
- Keep working or volunteer if you can
It’s tempting to mope, pout, and get angry. Find a positive outlet for your emotions, then keep going with your day.
10. Accept Help
When someone offers to help you, consider it before you give a knee jerk “no” as a response.
Is it something that would be beneficial to you and isn’t much of a burden to them? Maybe you need groceries, and they’re going to the store anyway. If you go to the store, you’re using up energy you could better spend in other ways.
Give them some money and a shopping list, and say thank you. They’ll feel good that they could help you, and you’ll have one less stress.
11. Reach Out for Help, Too
Sometimes, being stubborn is a good thing. You don’t follow the crowds, you don’t care about keeping up with the Joneses, and peer pressure is a non-issue.
But when you’re sick, you need to find the line between unhealthy obstinacy and knowing when to ask for help.
After chemo treatment, for example, you know you’ll be out of it for a few days. Reach out to a friend or relative and ask them to stay with you and make sure you don’t fall or relapse.
Never feel like you’re bugging your doctor, either. Call them if you have any questions or concerns. If they aren’t happy with your communication, it might be time to find another doctor.
No one can fight cancer physically and mentally on their own. As you face the dreaded diagnosis of this disease, these tips will help you cope.