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What to Do When You've Been Diagnosed With Cancer

author image LIVESTRONG Foundation
At The LIVESTRONG Foundation, we fight for the more than 32.6 million people around the world affected by cancer now. There can be – and should be – life after cancer for more people. We provide direct services to anyone affected by cancer; connect people and communities with the services they need; and call for state, national and world leaders to help fight this disease.
What to Do When You've Been Diagnosed With Cancer
Here's a few things to know if you've just been diagnosed with cancer. Photo Credit: Monkey Business/Adobe Stock

Learning that you have cancer isn’t something that you typically expect or plan for. Questions like “Will I die?” “What do I do next?” or “How do I tell my family?” might swirl through your head. Meanwhile, emotions like sadness, anger, fear and confusion – even numbness – take control. There are steps you can take to arm yourself with the knowledge and support you’ll need to guide you through your cancer journey.

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Here is a step-by-step guide on where to start.

1. What’s First?

By educating yourself about your cancer type, you can help to alleviate some of the stress and confusion you might feel upon diagnosis. Research treatment options and side effects, then find providers and facilities that can treat you. These tasks are essential first steps toward accepting and moving forward with your diagnosis.

If you’re a young adult (anyone under the age of 45 included!) diagnosed with cancer, your fertility may be at risk. Talk to your doctor about your risk and learn about different ways you can preserve your fertility.

2. How to Deal with Fears and Emotions

Accepting that you have cancer can be a major feat. Fear, anger, sadness and depression are common emotions to experience after diagnosis. Facing your fears, finding hope and meaning, tapping into your personal belief system and assessing your priorities and needs are a few strategies you can use you cope.

It’s also helpful to find ways to cope with your feelings of sadness and anger, and to recognize if you’re experiencing depression. Surrounding yourself with a strong support system can help you deal with emotional challenges. Meet with a counselor or find an emotional support group in your area full of people who are going through a similar experience.

3. Telling Others About Your Cancer

As if your own feelings weren’t enough, you might also be worried about how your loved ones will take the news. There’s no right or wrong way to break it to them and open a discussion. However, there are a few key points that can be useful to keep in mind. Cancer can cause incredible stress on a partnership, so it’s important to keep communication open. Talking openly, as difficult as it may be, can actually help to ease stress and improve your quality of life.

Also, talk openly with your children about your diagnosis and encourage them to ask questions. For additional support, there are a number of organizations that offer guidance to children of cancer fighters.

It’s important to know that you are not alone in your cancer fight. LIVESTRONG.ORG offers free programs and services to help you and your family during this difficult time. Call us 1-855-220-7777 to talk to a navigator about what programs and services are available to you. Note that this hotline will be closed for the holidays from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3. We are for you.

What Do YOU Think?

Did you find this information helpful? Do you find it easy or difficult to discuss your health with loved ones?

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