July 23, 2015
16 things cancer patients and survivors want newly diagnosed patients to know
BY Laura Nathan-Garner
The minutes, days and weeks after you're diagnosed with cancer can be overwhelming, scary and lonely.
But, as cancer patients and survivors recently shared in our Facebook community, you can get through this time.
Here's their advice for newly diagnosed cancer patients.
- Don't dwell on statistics. This is your experience, and no two people, cancer diagnoses or experiences are exactly alike.
- Knowledge is power. Research your disease and treatment options. Ask questions. Take notes when you meet with your doctor. This will help you feel more at peace with your decisions.
- Be your own advocate. You know your body and your wishes for treatment better than anyone else, so speak up if something doesn't seem right.
- Don't rush into treatment. Where you go first for treatment matters. The decisions you make now can affect your treatment options and prognosis down the road. So, take time to choose a cancer center, and evaluate your treatment options. Get a second opinion if you're not happy with the options you're given.
- Cancer is beatable. Thanks to clinical trials and new treatment options, more people are beating cancer and living longer than ever before.
- Take life one day at a time. A cancer diagnosis is easier to face if you focus on one day and one appointment at a time.
- Find at least one positive thing every day. Your favorite show or meal, a funny text, the sound of birds chirping - look for something that's good in spite of your diagnosis. And don't forget to laugh.
- Take someone with you to appointments. Your care team will share a lot of information with you, and it can be hard to remember it all. Bring a loved one along to hold your hand, ask questions and take notes.
- Don't ignore your emotions. Cry, scream, curse and laugh when you need to. These emotions are normal. Seek professional help to deal with your emotions and stress if you need it. MD Anderson patients can ask their doctors or nurses for referrals to our social work counselors and/or Psychiatry Service.
- You don't have to face cancer alone. Connect with other cancer patients and caregivers through MD Anderson's Facebook page and myCancerConnection, our one-on-one support program that connects patients and caregivers with others who've been there. Or find a support group.
- Maintain as much of your routine and life as possible. Yes, things will change, and you may not be able to do some things you've always done. But when you can, live your life and retain some sense of normalcy. This will help take your mind off cancer.
- Eat well and exercise when you can. Be good to your body, so it can help you get through treatment.
- Start a Facebook page or CarePages site to share your journey with your friends and family. This helps when you're tired of saying the same thing over and over, and it can help you stay connected to friends and family who are far away.
- Ask for help. Your friends, family and colleagues really do want to help, but they might not always know what you need.
- Be patient with yourself -- and with your loved ones. Cancer is hard on everyone, and some things will change. Adapting to change and healing take time. That's OK.
- You are a survivor. At MD Anderson, you're a survivor the moment you're diagnosed with cancer. Your caregivers are survivors, too.
To connect with other cancer patients and caregivers through myCancerConnection, please call 800-345-6324 or visit myCancerConnection online.