For many of us learning how to cope with a cancer diagnosis, either for yourself or for someone you love, is an important consideration. That’s especially true if, as Canadian Cancer Society research shows, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.
Although the overall cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today, hearing that you have cancer is a stressful experience. Anxiety, fear, and confusion are very common reactions.
The first step in successfully coping with a cancer diagnosis is to gather as much information as possible to help plan for next steps. Once you have the information you need, you can effectively consider and prepare for all the different effects of a cancer diagnosis:
- Emotional – One of the best ways to deal with the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis is to maintain honest, two-way communication with your loved ones, health care team, and others. By supporting each other and dealing honestly with any emotional challenges, like depression and anxiety, you can gain strength from each other.
- Physical – Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help improve energy levels and treatment success. However, it’s also important to anticipate and prepare for possible physical changes that may affect your daily activities, mobility, appearance, etc.
- Social – Knowing when to tell extended family members, friends, and colleagues about your diagnosis can be difficult, but being able to ask for help can make a big difference. It’s also important to try to maintain your normal lifestyle, wherever possible.
- Financial – A cancer diagnosis can result in a number of unexpected financial burdens, such as you or your loved ones needing time away from work or the cost of medications, medical devices, and travel for treatment. Preparing for these burdens can help you effectively address them if they arise.
- Legal – While a positive outlook is important, it may also be necessary to get your financial and legal affairs in order. Writing a will, deciding on a substitute decision-maker, or sharing your thoughts on a funeral or memorial service can help you take control and ensure that loved ones are cared for and your wishes are respected.
A cancer diagnosis can be a long and difficult journey, but the more help you or your loved ones have along the way, the better. A supportive caregiver, wide network of family and friends willing to help, and an effective health care team of varied specialties are all beneficial. Support groups can also be a valuable resource.
There are many wonderful local organizations offering help for those living with cancer and their loved ones, such as Wellspring Calgary and Breast Cancer Supportive Care. Or, you can visit the Canadian Cancer Society website for links to cancer resources.
Canadian Cancer Society (2017) Advanced Cancer. www.cancer.ca. Accessed April 9, 2018.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2017) Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping. www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed April 11, 2018.
Sudhakar, A. (2009) “History of Cancer, Ancient and Modern Treatment Methods.” Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy. Dec 1; 1(2): 1–4.