“You have cancer.” The shock is followed by an intense storm of emotions fueled by voices in our heads that scream our worst fears: Will I die? Is the treatment worse? Will it work? What will happen to me?
The answers are, of course, different for every patient but here are several suggestions that can make this journey easier.
1. Get an oncologist, preferably a board-certified specialist. You need the best medical care available. You may feel more comfortable with your family doctor but this is cancer and you can’t afford to be wrong.
2. Get a second opinion. Don’t worry about upsetting your doctor. If he/she objects, you’re with the wrong doctor anyway. A diagnosis is an opinion based on the facts of your case. You need to know if there are any other opinions.
3. Get organized. Most cancer patients are treated by numerous doctors at different labs, clinics, hospitals. Ask for copies of your records and keep them in one place along with medication lists, contacts, and insurance data. This is extremely helpful in emergencies.
4. Learn about your cancer from reliable sources. Beware of statistics, which are historical data that may not represent your specific circumstances.
5. Manage your stress. Although you are entitled to the paralyzing feelings that accompany cancer, they are counterproductive. Look into psychotherapy, anti-depressant medications, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi. Seek spiritual support.
6. Eliminate toxins. Whether toxic behaviors, relationships or habits, toxins are poison and will add to your burden. All your resources must now focus on your return to wellness.
7. Have hope, keeping your attention and intention on healing your body and spirit. People with hope tend to tolerate treatments better and have a better outcome overall.
8. Take it one day at a time. Just one.
Note: Annette, a survivor of ovarian and breast cancer, has dealt with numerous recurrences, yet lives in a state of unwavering optimism.