It is the most frightening moment that anyone can experience – sitting in front of your doctor and hearing that news that you have just been diagnosed with cancer. If the initial shock doesn’t send you reeling, you are in the minority, my friend! The fear, the stress, the overwhelming uncertainty for the future…all of these will surface either immediately or shortly afterward along with many other triggered emotions. Beyond the illness itself, you may experience a number of other physical symptoms that are associated with stress – interrupted sleep, variance in appetite, head and body aches, and complete lack of energy.
Your best defense in this circumstance is knowledge and information. Gaining a deeper understanding of the disease itself, the details around your particular case and the process that you will need to undergo to treat it and highly significant. Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you may have, regardless of how silly they may sound to you. And take notes about everything that you are told because your mind is not always completely focused when you are undergoing this level of fear and stress.
If there is counselling available to you to help you to cope with this, take it. Whether it comes in the form of a support group or a one on one opportunity to discuss your feelings, it will be advantageous to have a safe place to express any anger or grief that surfaces around this and in most cases, it will surface. Not only will this help you to cope and to rally your inner strength to face your treatment, but it will help you avoid a reaction in another situation where a blowup or breakdown could create other issues to manage. Read articles, books and blogs by people that have been through this already and take inspiration from their experience.
Stress around this can really build up even when you think that you are handling it well. Beyond the obvious stress of fearing for your health, work schedules will need to be adjusted, family life will be disrupted and you will not be the only person impacted. You may feel frustrated and depressed. Others may seem angry at you when they are in fact, angry at the disease for threatening your well-being.
Find a practice that helps you to reduce stress. If you love exercise, check with your doctor and see if you can maintain the same level of fitness you currently have. Meditate, pray or spend some time in nature – whatever is your chosen tool for gaining peace of mind. Take up yoga if only to employ the breathing exercises that can help you to take your body to a state of relaxation. Create a series of daily affirmations to ensure that your mind stays very focused on the positive. It is essential in your healing process. Accept that this is beyond your control and do not assign blame.
Outside of the assigned treatment, eat well and treat yourself from time to time to something that is a luxury but that makes you feel happy. You’ll need to try to get as much sleep as possible to gather the physical strength to face the fight to get through the treatments. If you need to reduce caffeine to do so, consider that as opposed to taking sleeping pills to assist you with this. Try naturopathic methods like herbal teas or warm milk.
And let those that love you step in and take care of you. It is difficult to be this vulnerable but you are, so know your limits and make a list of everyone that can help you as you are healing from any surgery or treatment. Stay strong and lean in to the fight with all the support you can gather.