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Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
Review your goals and priorities
Determine what's really important in your life. Find time for the activities that are most important to you and give you the most meaning. If needed, try to find a new openness with loved ones. Share your thoughts and feelings with them. Cancer affects all of your relationships. Communication can help reduce the anxiety and fear that cancer can cause.
Try to maintain your normal lifestyle
Maintain your normal lifestyle, but be open to modifying it as necessary. Take one day at a time. It's easy to overlook this simple strategy during stressful times. When the future is uncertain, organizing and planning may suddenly seem overwhelming.
Talk to other people with cancer
Sometimes it will feel as if people who haven't experienced a cancer diagnosis can't fully understand how you're feeling. It may help to talk to people who have been in your situation. Other cancer survivors can share their experiences and give you insight into what you can expect during treatment.
You may have a friend or family member who has had cancer. Or you can connect with other cancer survivors through support groups. Ask your doctor about support groups in your area or contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Online message boards also bring cancer survivors together. Start with the American Cancer Society's Cancer Survivors Network.
Some old stigmas associated with cancer still exist. Your friends may wonder if your cancer is contagious. Co-workers may doubt you're healthy enough to do your job, and some may withdraw for fear of saying the wrong thing. Many people will have questions and concerns. Determine how you'll deal with others' behaviors toward you. By and large, others will take their cues from you. Remind friends that even if cancer has been a frightening part of your life, it shouldn't make them afraid to be around you.
Look into insurance options
If you're employed, you may feel trapped, unable to change jobs for fear of not qualifying for new insurance. If you're retired, you may have difficulty purchasing new supplemental insurance. Find out whether your state provides health insurance assistance for people who are difficult to insure. Look into group insurance options through professional or fraternal organizations. The Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act may be of help during this time.
Develop your own coping strategy
Just as each person's cancer treatment is individualized, so is the coping strategy you use. Ideas to try:
- Practice relaxation techniques.
- Share your feelings honestly with family, friends, a spiritual adviser or a counselor.
- Keep a journal to help organize your thoughts.
- When faced with a difficult decision, list the pros and cons for each choice.
- Find a source of spiritual support.
- Set aside time to be alone.
- Remain involved with work and leisure activities as much as you can.
What comforted you through rough times before your cancer was diagnosed is likely to help ease your worries now, whether that's a close friend, religious leader or a favorite activity that recharges you. Turn to these comforts now, but also be open to trying new coping strategies.Previous page
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- Taking time: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/takingtime/allpages/print. Accessed June 28, 2011.
- Irwin ML, et al. Impact of nutrition and exercise on cancer survival. The Cancer Journal. 2008;14:435.
- Pekmezi DW, et al. Updated evidence in support of diet and exercise interventions in cancer survivors. Acta Oncologica. 2011;50:167.