Leon described hearing the words “you have cancer” as if someone had dimmed the lights — everything faded away and he didn’t hear anything else the doctor was telling him. All he could hear were the words “prostate cancer”.
A cancer diagnosis is not something you typically have a plan for or expect. 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.
Arming yourself with information and knowing there to turn for support when you need it can make the start of your cancer journey much smoother. Here is our 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. 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 offers free programs and services to help you and your family during this difficult time. Call us 1–855–220–7777 (or we can call you) to talk to a navigator about what programs and services are available to you. We are here to help.
Just Diagnosed — Three Steps to Start Your Cancer Journey was originally published in Livestrong Voices on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.