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By Ackerman Cancer Center


Overcoming the Emotional Impact of a Cancer Diagnosis

No one is ever fully prepared to receive a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly life is a series of appointments, decisions about treatment therapies and a whole new vocabulary of strange sounding words and acronyms. Just hearing the word cancer can produce a flurry of anxiety, emotions and even fear.

Your feelings and emotions are uniquely yours, but there are some general tips that may make it easier to cope with the psychological aspect of a serious diagnosis.

Tips for Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

Give yourself freedom to feel the way you do. Don’t try to push emotions aside or pretend everything is the same as it was. Acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and allow yourself to focus on immediate health needs and let go of the rest for the time being.

Prepare for information overload. Don’t expect to retain everything you are told. The emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis makes it hard to process information and absorb the details early on. It is great to be knowledgeable and participate in your illness,  but avoid information overload by focusing on key points and building on that foundation over time.

Rely on others for help and support. Whether you turn to family members, friends or a support group, no one should face cancer alone. Consider taking someone with you to doctor’s appointments to help you remember and digest what you are being told. Allow friends to run errands or pitch in to help with household chores. Seek out a positive thinker willing to listen who will offer encouragement or bring a smile.

Focus on your health. Maintain positive health habits such as regular exercise, healthy eating and getting plenty of quality sleep. Stick to your normal routine as closely as possible and make taking care of yourself a priority.

Develop coping strategies. Start a journal, seek spiritual support or employ relaxation techniques. Look for ways to soothe fluctuating emotions and stress. Whether that means grabbing your beloved fishing pole and heading for your secret spot or playing a leisurely nine holes of golf, find what works for you and turn to that when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Have faith in yourself. Recognize that life is full of tough turns, but nothing lasts forever. You’ve likely weathered storms before and come out on the other side. On the worst days, remind yourself that it won’t always be this way – there are better times ahead.

Make minutes count. A serious illness can cause you to reflect on factors in your life – both positive and negative. Prioritize your life and focus on the things that really matter. Spend time with those important to you and do the things you enjoy. No one knows what the future holds, but whether you have years ahead of you or just weeks, aim to live the best quality, most fulfilling life you can.

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