Life after diagnosis does not have to be debilitating. Here are some suggestions to improve your state of being and help ease you through the process of fighting cancer.
1. STAY IN THE MOMENT
Try to focus on resolving only today’s problems and take one step at a time, one day at a time.
2. ASK FOR SUPPORT
Help others understand what you need. Be as open as you can with your family and friends about how they can support you. Offer them specific examples such as helping with babysitting so you can go to the movies to take a break. Take someone with you to medical appointments to take notes and help you remember important information.
3. ACKNOWLEDGE AND EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS
Take time to listen to your body and to what you say to yourself. Once you are more aware of your feelings, express them through talking, writing, physical activity, or other creative pursuits. You may want to attend a support group led by a social worker, nurse, or patient advocate to share your feelings and learn from others. These groups may be held in-person or online.
4. DO WHAT YOU ENJOY
Continue activities that you enjoy and can do comfortably. Find new activities if you feel tired or have limitations. Ask friends to join you, or give yourself permission to be alone when you need.
5. SEEK RELAXATION
Take time to enjoy the moment. Take relaxing breaks in your daily routine: Listen to music that makes you happy, read a book, or take a walk. Consider joining a yoga, tai-chi, or meditation class. Perhaps watching your favorite TV show can put you in a relaxed state. Relaxation is something that you may have to learn.
6. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
If you feel that you have lost control to your doctors, loved ones, or even the disease itself, find something you can control, like cooking or making art. Identify the areas in your life in which you could benefit from help, and don’t be afraid to ask for support.
7. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE TEAM
Prepare a list of questions for each appointment. Bring a notebook to all your appointments and write things down. If you don’t understand what something means, ask until you understand. Ask for a copy of your medical records, including the pathology reports that confirmed your cancer. Ask your doctor to show you the scans that confirmed your diagnosis.
8. DEVELOP A PLAN
This plan should coordinate medical and emotional care, support you in managing your illness, link you with needed psychosocial services, and identify support organizations that can help you with specific needs. Your doctors and caregivers can help. You may choose to get a second diagnosis and treatment plan to best understand your options.
9. SPEND TIME WITH OTHER CANCER SURVIVORS
People with cancer often find comfort in talking with others who share their experiences—either in person, online, or by phone.
10. FIND HOPE IN DIFFERENT THINGS
Hope is desirable and reasonable. Even if your cancer recovery does not seem possible, you can set small goals and enjoy daily pleasures. Define hope for yourself. Get tickets to a concert. Attend a birthday, anniversary, or other event for someone you love. Talk about what gives you hope and what you hope for—now and in the future. Share these hopes with your family, friends, and a member of your health care team.
Cancer is a disease that is very personal. There are no right answers or ways of taking it on. These are just some suggestions of how to contend with a diagnosis that will ultimately change your life. Above all else, each individual should govern their life the way they best see fit.