If you get a diagnosis of melanoma, you'll have lots of questions -- and a swirl of emotions, too. There are many ways to get the backing you need. Your doctor, friends, family, and support groups can all play a role in helping you manage your next steps and ease your stress, too.
Talk to Someone You Trust
Share the load if you feel overwhelmed. Close friends and family are a good place to start. They know you well, and talking to them can make it easier for you to organize your thoughts.
You might already have a go-to family member or friend in mind who can talk openly with you about your diagnosis. Ideally, this is someone who will listen but won't get overprotective, pretend nothing is wrong, or give unwanted advice.
You might even want to ask this person to tell your other loved ones about your diagnosis, and that's OK, too. They may have advice on how to tell your co-workers, if you want to let them know at all, which is entirely up to you.
When people ask you how they can help, be honest about your needs. And don't be afraid to tell people if they're making you uncomfortable by asking questions that are too personal or telling you to "cheer up."
Go Outside Your Inner Circle for Help
Sometimes, even the most well-meaning friends can't fully understand what you're going through. That's where a melanoma support group can help, either in person or online. You'll meet people who are facing the same challenges and can share practical tips.
You can also see a professional counselor, who can help you look at your feelings from an outside perspective. This might be a psychologist, social worker, therapist, or a clergyperson. These professionals can help you manage your emotions, navigate everyday life, and gain confidence when talking with others.
If you're trying to find a counselor, your doctor can help steer you in the right direction. Some may be covered by your insurance or your employer.
Find Ways to Cut Stress
After a melanoma diagnosis, it's important to curb the everyday stress in other parts of your life. Things that can help are exercise, getting a good night's sleep, and spending time with the people you care about.
Keep doing things you enjoy, and try to carve out time to relax. You might want to start writing in a journal, do meditation, practice yoga, or get a massage.
Talk with your doctor, social worker, support group, or counselor. They can help you find valuable resources, from financial planners to yoga classes.
Understand Your Treatment Plan
Depending on how advanced your melanoma is, your treatment options could include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy drugs, or targeted therapy. Ask your doctor about the pros and cons. Find out how often you'll go in for treatment, how to manage side effects, and ways to stay healthy while your treatment is happening. If you need to get surgery, ask what the recovery period is like.
You may wonder if there's a chance your cancer can come back after treatment. It does happen, but it depends on lots of different things. Ask your doctor about the chances it may happen, how often you'll be coming in for follow-up exams, and how to keep an eye out for symptoms.
Get a Second Opinion
To help you feel more confident about your treatment plan, don't be afraid to get the views of another doctor, or even a third. This is your health, and you have the right to be fully informed.
A second doctor can do lots of things: Confirm your diagnosis, talk to you about clinical trials for new drugs, or even offer a different treatment plan if they think it better suits you. Take notes and ask plenty of questions. If they disagree with your first doctor's plan, ask why.
A melanoma diagnosis doesn't mean you can't stay in control. By keeping yourself informed, recognizing your emotions, confiding in your loved ones, and seeking help where you need it, you are in great shape to navigate your next steps in the healthiest way possible.