You’ve been diagnosed with cancer – news that may not only seem unbelievable but has left you feeling frightened or angry. These are normal feelings. Cancer can be a very scary word. It is natural to feel anxious about the disease, the treatment, whether you will experience pain, the possibility of dying. On top of your own feelings, your family and friends will have worries too. It can be a very difficult time for everyone.
You will probably want to share the news of your diagnosis with the people around you. How much you tell them is entirely up to you – it’s your health and therefore your decision. But try not to keep it completely to yourself. We all need support, and this is certainly true when facing illness. You may decide to tell your family everything, and your employer or co-workers only what they need to know… again, it’s your choice. You’ll know when the time is right, and you’ll decide what you feel comfortable sharing.
Cancer sometimes changes the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us. It can have an effect on our relationships – but not always negatively. You may discover support and friendship from a whole new group of people.
Some practical tips:
- Learn as much as you can from your healthcare team about your particular cancer, the treatment options available (there may be several), how long your treatments will last and what you can expect.
- Continue living your life as normally as you can. If you can keep working, do so, although recognize when you are tired or stressed and plan your working time carefully.
- If you have a hobby that you enjoy, indulge yourself – do the things that help you relax and forget about everything else. Listen to music, read a book, do a crossword puzzle, work in the garden, go for a walk around the neighbourhood.
- Some people find that a diary is helpful, to keep records of how you are feeling during this time. You don’t need to share this diary with anyone and it may help to relieve the stress and anxiety you are feeling.
- Support groups are available, and your healthcare team can direct you to one. You may find it helpful to share your feelings with other people who have been through the same experiences. Sometimes talking to people other than your family or friends will give you a new perspective, and it may make you feel less alone. If you can’t attend a meeting, there are support groups online. Even if you don’t actively participate, you may find it helpful to read about the experiences of other people in your situation.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Even those who know and love you best often don’t know what you want or need, but they’d be happy to help even in small ways. Neighbours can pick up groceries or walk the dog; friends can take turns taking you to the hospital or doctor’s appointments. Ask for specific things.
Don’t be alone in all of this. Recognize that there are days you will feel angry or sad or hopeless. Focus on yourself, and on the people, things and activities that make you happy. And think of ways to take care of yourself during treatment…and beyond.
Need someone who understands? Search “cancer” in Find Support — our unique database of non-profit Canadian organizations to find support groups on a broad range of disease areas and health topics.