Coping with a cancer diagnosis

Everyone reacts differently to a cancer diagnosis. Most experience a range of emotions triggered by the question ‘why me’? It takes time to work through these emotions and to come to terms with the situation. It’s natural to have worries and concerns about the future, your treatment plan and also life after treatment. Here are eight tips to help you cope with the diagnosis:

1. Get the facts about your cancer

Getting good information about your cancer means you can make informed decisions about your care. Many people feel more confident and more in control if they know everything in detail. Others prefer to know much less and to leave decisions to their cancer care team. Whichever path you follow, you can be confident that your cancer care team wants the best for you.

It’s a good idea to attend the first appointments with your partner, a close relative or a friend so they can help you remember all the information you will be given and take notes. Before you attend your appointments write down any questions that you have:

  • About the cancer — this includes:
    • Where is it and what stage is it?
    • Can the cancer be cured or will it return?
    • Is there anything that can be done to stop it recurring?

  • Any likely side effects from the treatment and how will these affect daily life
  • What the suggested treatment plan is — this includes:
    • Are there any options? 
    • How long will treatment last?
    • When will it begin? 

2. Tell your family and friends

Once you’ve learned about your cancer and have a treatment plan in place, you will probably want to share the news with your family and friends. Wait until you’re completely ready to talk as you don’t know how people will feel or react.

Although it can be a difficult conversation to have, it’s useful to tell people who can support you and lessen your anxiety. Decide what you’re going to say in advance and be prepared for their questions.

If you have children, tell them too as they will probably have already sensed something is wrong. How much you tell them depends on their age. The important point is to reassure them that it’s nobody’s fault. Tell them how you’re feeling and let them share their feelings and worries with you.

A smiling family

3. Get planning

There will be days or weeks between your diagnosis and the start of your treatment — this is valuable time for planning. As well as ensuring that your daily life will be as easy as possible on your return home, this is an important time for you to come to terms with the situation. Many people find that they feel much better if they make a plan to cope with treatment as this makes them feel more confident about the situation and more in control.

4. Will treatment impact your finances?

Your cancer diagnosis can have an impact on your finances in a variety of ways and these are worth considering:

  • If seeking treatment privately, does your health insurance cover treatment costs and the cost of medication?
  • Will you have to take time off work; if yes, will you qualify for disability allowance or will your partner or other close family members have to take time off to care for you?
  • Will your diagnosis affect your life insurance policy?

Seek financial advice if you need it.

5. Anticipate change

Your cancer treatment can affect how you look and feel about yourself. Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause side effects such as weight loss, hair loss and skin rashes. When you are home from hospital, it will be easiest to wear loose, comfortable clothing. You might find that wearing a headscarf or a wig will help you feel more confident when dealing with hair loss.

Dealing with your emotions can be harder, but practising self-awareness or meditation can really help. Making a playlist of your favourite songs to enjoy as you are sitting in waiting rooms and during quiet moments at home can also be beneficial.

6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

It’s a good idea to eat healthily and keep active. The amount of exercise you do will depend on how you’re feeling and could be less than usual. Try to eat more nutritious meals. These will help to prepare your body for the treatment.

If you are having difficulty sleeping or are in pain, seek help from your doctor. If you take any herbal medicines, mention these early on as you may have to stop taking them before treatment begins.

7. Talk to others with cancer

It can be really beneficial to talk with someone who has had cancer and recently undergone treatment. They will have experienced similar emotions and anxieties and will understand how you’re feeling. They will probably have some good tips for coping with the various stages of treatment.

8. Get support

Facing cancer alone is far from easy so it’s a good idea to look for support. Your cancer care team will be happy to answer any questions you may have. They will understand your concerns about the treatment that lies ahead.

You may have people in your support network who you can talk to honestly about how you feel. If people want to offer practical help, give them a specific task such as helping with the school run or walking the dog.

If you don’t have family or friends to support you, ask your doctor if there are any local support groups you could join. There are also several groups online.

Many people prefer to stay involved with work and leisure activities, but it’s important that you pace yourself. Try not to get overtired and have some time to yourself each day. Find what works best for you now.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.