Let's not sugar coat it, a cancer diagnosis is devastating and terrifying. It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed and fearful of your future.
After your diagnosis, you may be referred to a number of different specialists, such as a Surgeon, Medical Oncologist, Radiation Oncologist, Immunologist, or Hematologist. The information you will receive will be vast and sometimes difficult to comprehend, but there are a number of things you can do to help:
Find a partner - whether it be family member, friend, or neighbor, it helps to have someone to go to your appointments with you to help retain the information you'll be receiving.
Get as much information as possible from your doctor about your diagnosis.
Ask questions - Be prepared for every appt, in order to ask your healthcare team the most helpful questions in your short appt time. Be sure to bring a pen and notepad to write everything down or record the conversation with your phone.
Educate yourself - stick with government or hospital websites for accurate information. Otherwise information on the internet may be inaccurate and misleading
Every cancer diagnosis is unique. Cancer varies from person to person because it is measured by several different factors. It is important to ask your doctors for as much information as possible about your individual cancer in order to ensure you are receiving optimal care.
Unless you require urgent treatment take the time to become as educated as possible before agreeing to recommended treatment(s).
Some of the most important questions to ask your doctor are the following:
1. What is the clinical stage and pathological grade of my cancer?
2. Which treatment(s) will give me the best quality of life and greatest life expectancy?
3. What other tests can I have to see if the cancer has spread?
4. How long will it take to get the results of these tests?
5. Can I get a copy of the test results?
6. Can you explain the results of my complete blood count (CBC)?
7. Are there hormone receptor tests available for my type of cancer? (For example, breast cancer should always be tested for HER2 and hormone receptor status)
8. What is the outlook or prognosis for my cancer?
9. Would I be better off being treated in a more specialized center?
10. What would my life expectancy be if I didn't have any treatment?
Nobody should go through cancer alone. You deserve all of the help and support you can get throughout your treatments and beyond. Allow your friends and family to accompany you to your appointments, help you around the house or with errands, and be your shoulder to cry on.
Some people won't know what to say or do when you tell them about your diagnosis. If they ask you if there's anything they can do, take them up on it and assign them something like picking your kids up for school or helping you do groceries.
If you’re not comfortable opening up to anyone you know about your feelings, that’s where a support group or personal cancer coach can be a game changer. There are several online support groups now where you don't even have to show your face, share your real name, or even share your story. Just listening to the stories of others in a similar position as your own, can be extremely helpful.