A Cancer Diagnosis: What to Do Next?
Experts explain how to take control of your life after a cancer diagnosis.
Communicating With Friends and Family Members
Support from family and friends after a cancer diagnosis can be literally
lifesaving. At the same time, experts warn, dealing with all the well-wishers
can wear you out. The key: getting the support you need while reserving time
and energy for treatment and recovery. A few guidelines can help:
- Don’t hide your cancer diagnosis. “Protecting” children or others from the
bad news usually makes the situation worse.
- When people ask if they can help, give them specific tasks. Driving you to
an appointment, or helping with child care are examples.
- Start a web site or designate a contact person to share information among
family and friends.
- Expect awkward conversations -- even inadvertently hurtful comments or
behavior -- from well-meaning friends.
A cancer diagnosis requires a financial action plan as well as a
medical one. Budgeting for health care costs and ensuring your family’s
security require advance planning. Regardless of income, everyone should
consider the potential financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.
In our health care system, insurance makes a big difference in cancer care.
If you have insurance, read your plan carefully and talk to your provider about
your cancer diagnosis.
If you don’t have insurance, try to enroll in an insurance plan. While not
always easy, joining a large company is the best way to get insurance
If you cannot acquire any insurance, your state may be able to enter you
into a “risk pool” for the uninsured, which provides health care payments.
Dealing with financial issues can significantly add to the stress of a
cancer diagnosis. This can be a good area to delegate to someone else, like a
trusted family member or friend, or a certified financial planner sensitive to
cancer issues. Type “financial” into the American Cancer Society’s web
site search engine (www.cancer.org) for
additional helpful information.
Taking Care of You
Taking care of yourself after a cancer diagnosis may be the most important
task of all -- and the most overlooked.
Work obligations and other roles -- such as parent, spouse, or caregiver --
will compete for your time and energy. Rule No. 1: your treatment comes first,
says Visel. DuHamel reminds people of the airplane advisory: “Put your own
oxygen mask on before helping others.”
After a cancer diagnosis, you owe it to yourself to be your own No. 1
caregiver. Your personal care plan should include the following:
- Try to keep life “as normal as possible,” says Fincannon. “You’re more than
a cancer patient -- you’re who you were before” your cancer diagnosis, she
- Exercise as much as you can. Short walks, even simple stretching, will
- Staying positive is important. However, expressing your feelings -- even
ones that seem negative -- is even more important.
- Learn to rely on others. As Fincannon puts it, “you have cancer -- milk
it!” Share responsibilities for child care or elder care with others.
- Consider speaking with a mental health professional, particularly if you
are depressed or anxious. Therapy can help relieve the stress of a cancer
diagnosis, and give you a safe place to express your fears and hopes for the