The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there would be 1,688,780 new cases of cancer in the country, with 600,920 Americans expected to perish from the disease in 2017. Unless you are at high risk of contracting cancer, most cancer diagnosis in the United States come as surprises. Often the disease manifest in simple, unassuming symptoms, such as stomach pain, a headache, or even having trouble sleeping. For these people, receiving the news that they have cancer often come as a shock.
If you or a loved one is suddenly diagnosed with cancer, here are some ways to help you cope.
What to do when you learn the news
Most people are in denial when they first hear their cancer diagnosis. After all, their symptoms are not dire and are often negligible. For instance, someone can just be suffering from a severe stomach ache. Upon examination, it was revealed that she had lymphoma.
Therefore, the first step to dealing with a cancer diagnosis is to process the news. Understand that whatever simple ailment you may have is actually a symptom of a worse disease—in this case, cancer. At this point, most people would deny the findings despite the evidence from the diagnostic testing. Here is how you can cope:
- Get a second opinion. Getting a second opinion is not a sign that you do not trust your doctor. Rather, it is about reassuring yourself that you are getting the right treatment and that you know what you are dealing with. If you are unsure of your doctor’s diagnosis, get a second opinion with a practitioner you trust.
- Process the news. Once you understand the severity of your disease, understand what it is. Research about it, find out the statistics and learn how you can conquer the disease. Ask your doctor about any of your questions. Once you have this knowledge, you will at least have some semblance of control over the disease. You would also be able to control your treatment and determine the method that you are comfortable with.
- Be vocal. No one is expecting you to be a pillar of strength when you are informed of the devastating diagnosis. Therefore, feel free to be vocal about your opinions and feelings. Let out your anger, your grief, even your sadness. Don’t bottle it up, as doing so can prove to be more harmful to you in the future.
These things will help you process the news that you have cancer. Hopefully, you will be able to accept that you have cancer, and you would be able to cope in the best way possible.
Learning how to cope
Once you have accepted the diagnosis, it is time for you to take a deep breath and consider how to best live your life. People have different coping mechanisms, but here are the basics:
- Have a support system. Having a support system can significantly change your mindset. Your support system will help you feel important, loved, and even capable so that you would have even better reasons to fight against the disease. Your support system will help you conquer the disease by giving you the strength and inspiration. Never be afraid to reach out to others and open up to them — they’re bound to have your best interests at heart, and they will help you in the best way they can.
- Keep yourself healthy. You may feel tempted to let yourself go with the cancer diagnosis, but you have to remember that most forms of cancer are manageable, if not treatable. That being said, you have to keep your chin up and look after yourself. Eat your favorite, healthy meals.
- Exercise regularly. Avoid vices such as smoking or excessive alcohol intake, as this can only make your body get sicker. You want to grow stronger and healthier, so make sure you keep yourself healthy by looking after yourself. This will give you the opportunity to bounce back.
- Follow your passion. You also have to take time for yourself by pampering yourself. Have a massage, go to the spa, and follow your passion. Read as much as you can, if you’re into reading. If you like writing, write your heart out. Having a cancer diagnosis does not mean that your life is over; rather, it has given you a new reign on life so that you want to make the most out of it. This is the best opportunity for you to follow your passion and do the things you have always wanted to do.
- Focus. One of the things that make cancer so disheartening to cope with is the fact that it feels like your body is turning against you. Your own cells would attack your own healthy cells, or the disease can spread to other parts of the body. It can give you a sense of not having control. That being said, focus on the things that you can control. These things are your own emotions, your own response to the disease, and how you mingle with other people. Don’t beat yourself up when you have off days – just focus on getting through life one day at a time, and bounce back the next day.
- Know when to ask for help. Finally, one of the best things that can help you cope is when you know when to ask for help. Many cancer patients become depressed because of the disease. It’s fine to want to talk about your feelings, to cling to other people, to recognize how helpless you are and seek help from other people. Do not feel ashamed of asking people for help – they are there for you, and would be glad to help.
At the end of the day, a cancer diagnosis is still just a diagnosis. Cancer treatment has gone bounds from decades ago when the mortality rate across the board is just high. The chances of you surviving the cancer are in your favor, depending on the type of cancer that you have. One thing that remains constant across the board is the need to cope with the diagnosis.
Once you are equipped with the right outlook, you would have a better chance of beating the disease.