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Adjusting to Life With Cancer

May 3, 2022

A cancer diagnosis is one of the most shocking and devastating experiences you can go through. Cancer affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles, but no one expects to be personally afflicted by the disease. Although modern medicine and advanced oncology resources have improved patient outcomes, cancer can still turn your world upside-down.

Learning how to cope with cancer is complex, and it takes most people a long time to come to terms with their diagnosis. However, it’s possible to make peace with your illness and embrace life with cancer. Taking care of your mental and emotional health while undergoing treatment is essential. Here are seven tips on how to cope with cancer.

1. Acknowledge and Validate Your Emotions

Everyone’s response to a cancer diagnosis is different. You might feel incredibly sad or devastated or angry at the news. Some people feel numb right after receiving their diagnosis but cycle through the stages of grief in the following weeks or months. There’s no right or wrong response to learning that you have cancer. The most important thing you can do to cope is to allow yourself to experience your emotions without judgment.

Try not to feel guilty or ashamed of your response to your diagnosis. As long as you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else, you can feel and express your pain in whatever way you need. Coping with cancer requires self-awareness of your emotions without self-criticism. By acknowledging your feelings without trying to control or change them, you give yourself the space you need to process this life-changing news.

2. Establish a New Normal

If your life with cancer looks much different from before your diagnosis, you must establish a new normal. Trying to maintain your old lifestyle while battling cancer may not be possible and may leave you feeling exhausted or discouraged. Instead, you should willingly and intentionally change your daily routine and activities when necessary. Settling into a new routine can be more comforting than struggling to keep up with your old one.

3. Lean on Your Family and Friends

Some people are great at opening up to others about their struggles, while others prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to speak to your loved ones about your emotions and experiences, cancer affects the family and you should accept their support. Your friends and family love you and want to help in any way they can, which may be a valuable source of comfort during this difficult time.

4. Focus on What You Can Control

One of the most challenging aspects of a cancer diagnosis is feelings of losing control. Being diagnosed with a severe illness reminds us that no one can entirely control their own lives or predict the future. Cancer can disrupt your long-term plans and change your life overnight. However, focusing on what you can control is a great way to cope.

For example, educating yourself on cancer management and treatment can help you develop a sense of control. Although you can’t change your diagnosis, you can take charge of your treatment. Similarly, sticking to a daily schedule may help you feel more in control of your life.

5. Build Healthy Habits

Cancer takes a toll on your physical health, but that doesn’t mean you should stop taking care of yourself. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a critical component of cancer management and is also great for your mental health. Try to get enough sleep every night, eat healthy meals, and exercise regularly. Managing anxiety and stress becomes more manageable when you care for your body.

6. Utilize Patient Resources

As you undergo treatment, your healthcare team should inform you of a wide variety of patient resources that are available to you. This includes educational oncology resources, support groups, financial assistance programs, home health support, etc. These resources exist to ease the burden on you and other patients, and they can play an instrumental role in coping with cancer. 

7. Seek Professional Help

Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis is complex, and the experience can affect your mental health significantly. If you’re struggling to cope, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Counseling can be an excellent opportunity to explore and process your emotions and develop coping strategies to approach your treatment with a strong mindset. 

Your healthcare team or your hospital’s social worker can help you find a counselor in your area specializing in chronic illness. You can also search online or reach out to your insurance provider to find a therapist in your network.

Being diagnosed with cancer changes your life, but you can continue to find joy and purpose despite your illness. Treat yourself with compassion, reach out for support from others, and do your best to take care of your health by taking active steps toward mental and emotional wellness.

About Nashville Oncology

At Nashville Oncology, our goal is simple: treat the whole person, not just the disease. We offer personalized care that respects the needs of our patients and their families. Contact us to learn more about our wide range of comprehensive cancer services or to schedule an appointment.