Getting a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. After the initial shock wears off, you may find yourself asking Now what? There are many things to think about and deal with as far as what comes next. It can help you to know what to expect and how to cope with fear and anxiety after a cancer diagnosis. The following tips and resources below can help you get started.
1. Understand your diagnosis. Work with your healthcare providers to learn as much as you can about your cancer diagnosis. Asking questions and learning the answers can help you know what to expect in the days, weeks, and months ahead. For example, you'll likely want to learn about how treatment is planned and how cancer will impact your life. It can be helpful to prepare a list of the questions you want to talk about with your healthcare provider. We have a discussion guide here to get you started:
2. Find the right healthcare team. It usually takes many healthcare providers to treat and manage your cancer. For example, in addition to your regular healthcare provider, you may need to receive care from an oncologist (a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating cancer), a surgical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a pain specialist, a specialist nurse and others. You can get more supportive resources at:
Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Should You Get a Second Opinion?
3. Learn about your treatment options. The type of treatment you will receive depends on the kind of cancer you have, how far it has spread (called stage), your health history, and your personal needs. During your discussions with your healthcare provider, ask about the goals of your treatment (e.g., to stop the cancer from spreading or to cure it), your treatment options, suitability for a clinical trial, how long the treatment will last, side effects, and the impact of treatment on your life. It can be helpful to be proactive in letting your healthcare provider know about any vitamins, supplements, or complementary therapies that you are or are considering taking. Additional resources can be found here:
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry
4. Create a support system. Having support and emotional connections can be a vital part of your overall treatment plan. These include online communities, phone or live chat services, rides to treatment and emotional support. You can find more supportive resources at:
Cancer Council Online Community
Cancer Society New Zealand: Living with Cancer
Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Choosing a Support Group
5. Think about how you want to tell others. Deciding when, what, and how to talk about your cancer is a deeply personal decision. You can find more supportive resources at:
Cancer Society NZ Telling other people about your diagnosis
6. Coping with emotions. It can be challenging to deal with the emotional aspects of having cancer. You may have feelings you haven't had before, or your feelings may change from moment to moment. You may feel overwhelmed or angry. Talk to your doctor about a referral for counselling support. You can find more information at:
Cancer Society NZ: Coping with cancer
Get Healthy Stay Healthy: Recognising and Managing Depression When You Have a Chronic Illness
7. Manage your finances. Navigating the financial aspects of cancer and its treatment can be stressful. Your doctor or nurse can help you understand the associated costs of treatment. You might also be eligible for government-funded assistance. You can get more supportive resources at:
Cancer Council Australia: Legal, Work and Financial Issues
Cancer Society New Zealand: Benefits and Entitlements
Sometimes, the worst experiences can bring out a person's most profound strength. It can also build deeper connections with those that matter to you the most. We hope that these tips and links to supportive resources can help you move from uncertainty to positive action.