Diagnosed with Cancer




      Diagnosis Cancer

 → Your Medical Appointment

       Time of uncertainty


Taking in the News

An accurate diagnosis is the first step in creating a plan of action!

When you are diagnosed with cancer you are facing a total new and unknown territory and fear.
Whether this is your first time with cancer, or you’re experiencing a recurrence, it’s most important to remember -  you’re not alone.
Statistics can tell that every third adult in the world is diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. And of these, millions are living productive lives, and overcome cancer. In the past 20 years, cancer survival rates have improved significantly - and the odds are getting better all the time.

While cancer is one of the biggest challenges you will ever face, there are reasons to be hopeful. Treatments for cancer  has become more sophisticated and health professionals continue to deepen our understanding of cancer. And beside medical treatments you have many other resources to draw on as well for your healing, e.g. complimentary medicine, integrative medicine, alternative therapies. Your Cancer Mentor,  friends, family, your spiritual community or and other follow patients and survivors also there for you, to support you throughout your healing journey.

There are many people out there who want to help you through the journey of cancer. Education is your greatest tool and for everyone involved in this process.


 Listening Ear Telephone Helpline

  Cancer Patient Support

  Mentor Support

 → Educational information
 → Your Medical Appointment

 → Treatment Decisions

 → Questions to Ask Your Doctor



Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is probably one of the worst things happening to us. Most of us think of it as something that happens to someone else - someone outside of our family and circle of close friends. Nothing prepares us for this disaster and devastating blow to our life as we know it.

The shock of receiving the diagnosis of cancer is absolutely monumental. No one is ever ready to hear that they have cancer. It’s normal for people with cancer to wonder why it happened to them or to think life has treated them unfairly. You may not even believe the diagnosis, especially if you don’t feel sick.The inner turmoil can be so big that for some time it is almost impossible to hear, let alone think clearly, about any new given information you might receive.

You will be vulnerable at this time and it is important to avoid, as far as possible to make any key decisions about your treatment, while you are in the state of shock. Most people report that they could not retain or remember what the doctor told them.


The Road Ahead

Your experience with cancer is unique. Your path from diagnosis to recovery may be direct. Or it may be a  journey with all kind of re directions, during which you and your healthcare team employ a variety of strategies to keep the cancer at bay.

Take Time to Adapt to Your Feelings

Cancer is likely one of the most difficult challenges you will ever face, but you may be better equipped to deal with it than you realize.

Your body has many built-in cancer-fighting mechanisms your immune system destroys many pre-cancerous and cancerous cells on its own every day. You can also call on your physical, emotional, and spiritual resources: The healthy foods you eat, the activities that nourish your body, mind, and spirit, your family and friends, so that you soon feel ready to take the next step on your healing path - on the road ahead of your cancer journey.

Everyone deals with a cancer diagnosis differently. Physical factors that influence the diagnosis are age, gender, and type and stage of disease. For many people affected by cancer, some or many of the following reactions and issues surface around the cancer diagnosis.

  • Anxiety, confusion, guilt, panic, disorientation, despair, grief, frozen feelings such as numbing and cognitive overwhelm
  • Fear / Anxiety
  • Denial
  • Stress
  • Sadness / Depression
  • Hopelessness / feelings of Loss
  • Loneliness /Isolated
  • Anger
  • Search for answers
  • Difficulty or inability making decisions
  • Difficulty controlling overwhelming feelings
  • Self doubts about ability to cope
  • "We'll just fight it" mentality with a stiff upper lip
  • Families may begin to be dishonest with each other to "protect"the other and thereby create feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Varying degrees and episodes of existential plight
  • Cursory or more comprehensive life review
  • Thoughts about mortality.


NEVER make an important decision about your treatment while you are in shock!

It is important that you go first through your emotional reaction before you make any major decision and that you explore the best treatment option for you. The best outcome for your treatment can only be achieved when you have prepared yourself mentally, emotional and practical before the treatment starts. 

Usually there is a period of time of intensive disbelief and the first question that comes up for many people who have been told they have cancer is, “What did I do wrong?” or “Why me?”This question goes around and around in peoples mind. It seems so unfair and outrageously unbelievable that ones future and life is now critically threatened.

The individuals initial reaction to the diagnosis of cancer can take different forms. Some people collapse and may give up all together, living in a state of great fear and intimidation, others suppress their feeling and going into denial and want to go as quickly as possible back to their "normal life", while others feel totally numb.

For some people the shock of the diagnosis, however awful, can be energizing, triggering clarity and insight. Like in the eye of a hurricane , they feel a profound sense of stillness, that everything will be alright and that they have the strength to deal with the truth of the situation.



The individuals initial reaction to the diagnosis of cancer can take different forms. Some people collapse and may give up all together, living in a state of great fear and intimidation, others suppress their feeling and going into denial and want to go as quickly as possible back to their "normal life", while others feel totally numb.

For some people the shock of the diagnosis, however awful, can be energizing, triggering clarity and insight. Like in the eye of a hurricane , they feel a profound sense of stillness, that everything will be alright and that they have the strength to deal with the truth of the situation.

Some people believe they are being punished for something they did or failed to do in the past. Most people wonder if they did something to cause the cancer. Some think that if they had done something differently, they could have prevented the disease.

If you are having these feelings, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. All of these thoughts and beliefs are common among people with cancer. But cancer is not a punishment for things you did or didn’t do in the past. Don’t blame yourself or look for ways you might somehow have prevented cancer. Cancer is not your fault, and it is almost never possible to find out its exact cause. Focus instead on taking good care of yourself now, both physically and emotionally.

Most people have in general an abhorrence of losing control and to express their vulnerability. Both can have the consequence, that a person with cancer often suppress their reaction to the shock of the diagnosis. family, friends and health professionals often try to get them back to "normal life" and push the the person with cancer straight into  a rigorous treatment regime. Sometimes this is so strong that the diagnosis is completely swept under the carpet and will cause another pressure inside you, which is not healthy!

It is not uncommon for people to shut down mentally once they hear the word “cancer.” Do what ever you need to do - but don't suppress your feelings, cry, shout,  scream, withdraw, express your anger or rage, grieve - there is no need to be brave! Take all the time you need to go through your reaction! 

It is quiet normal to feel as if you are being unpredictable and out of control, some days you may feel like hiding from the world because you feel so scared and tired; other times you feel really positive and want to be with people. At times you may be calm and accepting and to be able to carry on doing normal tasks, at other times the knowledge that you have cancer may overwhelm you.


 Roller Coaster of Emotions and Feelings

The roller coaster of feelings can have some steep ups and downs, for which few people are prepared. Fear is only the most obvious and accessible emotion associated with cancer. I have seen a full spectrum of rage, denial, stress, loneliness, anxiety, resentment, frustration, sadness, guilt, remorse, doubt and discouragement in virtually everyone, who has tried  to deal with cancer, including myself. At the very least, these emotions deserve to be acknowledged. 

Your feelings can change from day to day, hour to hour, or even minute to minute.

You may feel like a yo - yo as you go up and down with your emotions and this can be unsettling. It is impossible to be positive all the time. 

Your attitudes, emotions, and moods can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. You may feel good one day and terrible the next. Know that this is normal and that, with time, most people are able to adjust to a cancer diagnosis and move forward with their lives.

Let Yourself feel what You feel.

Think of yourself as on a journey to a territory that is unknown. Sometimes the terrain will be easy to travel through - at other times the journey will be arduous and tiring. Do what ever you can to make the journey as comfortable and easy as possible. When you feel tired rest, if you feel angry find a safe place to express that anger, talk about your fears to a sympathetic person.

The real challenge, however, is working through all your feelings and finding release and freedom from them in a safe place and positive way.

Many patients actively bottle up their emotional responses to their illness. So often I found cancer patients trying with all their might to present themselves as cool, calm and collected. Unresolved emotions are often expressed as irritation, impatience and even annoyance being in the present of their doctor or family.

Link:  suppressed emotions

The most common message comes from the vast majority of patients who must deal with the significant logistical challenges of cancer, including day care for children, time of work and financial pressure. For these people, the impulse to suppress their emotions has a different rationale: 

" I just don't have time for this, I have got more important things to do", or "I don't have time to worry about my feelings."

For me the saddest thing is how quickly people who respond like this seek to reestablish the internal status quo. The feeling are so troubling that they never must be shown to the world - or even acknowledged. Yet by denying their emotions, people often deprive themselves of the very experience of healing that they are really seeking when they come for help.

Promise yourself that you will treat yourself with tender compassion.

Promise yourself that you will unconditionally accept exactly where you are in your process. Do not walk away from yourself. Be there for yourself. If you haven't done this before you became ill with cancer, now is the time!

Link: be gentle with yourself

Be willing to take life on trust and be proud of yourself for how you are succeeding. Just keep going is an achievement at a time like this.


Ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis, and write them down your answers without editing or judging them:

  • How do I feel today?
  • What emotions have I experienced in the past twenty - four hours?
  • How do I feel about my cancer?
  • What is it doing to my life?
  • What I'm willing to give up because of this cancer?
  • What are the gifts that this cancer can ring to me and my family?
What can I do to help myself to feel better today?

All these feelings are normal:


You may feel afraid.

Some people fear cancer itself, while others may be afraid of cancer treatments and wonder how they will get through them. It's scary to hear that you have cancer. You may be afraid or worried about:

  • Being in pain, either from the cancer or the treatment
  • Feeling sick or looking different as a result of your   treatment
  • Taking care of your family
  • Paying your bills
  • Keeping your job
  • Dying

Your family and close friends may also worry about:

  • Seeing you upset or in pain
  • Not giving you enough support, love, and understanding
  • Living without you. Some fears about cancer are based on stories, rumors, and old information. Most people feel better when they know what to expect. They feel less afraid when they learn about cancer and its treatment.


Do you feel stressed?

Your body may react to the stress and worry of having cancer. You may notice that:

  • Your heart beats faster
  • You have headaches or muscle pains
  • You don't feel like eating or you eat more
  • You feel sick to your stomach or have diarrhea
  • You feel shaky, weak, or dizzy
  • You have a tight feeling in your throat and chest
  • You sleep too much or too little
  • You find it hard to concentrate

Stress can also keep your body from fighting disease as well as it should.

stress and cancer

stress reduction methods

You can learn to handle stress in many ways, like:

  • Exercising
  • Listening to music
  • Reading books, poems, or magazines
  • Getting involved in hobbies such as music, art, gardening or crafts
  • Relaxing or meditating, such as lying down and slowly Breathing in and out
  • Talking about your feelings with family and close friends

If you're concerned about stress, talk to your cancer companion, your cancer mentor or health care provider. You could also find a class that teaches people ways of dealing with stress. The key is to find ways to control stress and not to let it control you.



May you are in denial

When you were first diagnosed, you may have had trouble believing or accepting the fact that you have cancer. This is called denial. It can be helpful because it can give you time to adjust to your diagnosis. Denial can also give you time to feel hopeful and better about the future.

Sometimes, denial is a serious problem. If it lasts too long, it can keep you from getting the treatment you need. It can also be a problem when other people deny that you have cancer, even after you have accepted it.

The good news is that most people (those with cancer as well as those they love and care about) work through denial. By the time treatment begins, most people accept the fact that they have cancer.


Control and Self-Esteem

When you first learn that you have cancer, you may feel as if your life is out of control. You may feel this way because:

  • You wonder if you will live or die
  • Your daily routine is disrupted by doctor visits
  • and treatments
  • People use medical words and terms that you
  • don't understand
  • You feel like you can't do things you enjoy
  • You feel helpless
  • The health professionals treating you are strangers

Even though you may feel out of control, there are ways you can be in charge, For example, you can:

Learn as much as you can about your cancer. 
  • Ask questions. Let your health providers know when
  • you don't understand what they are saying, or when
  • you want more information about something.

  • Look beyond your cancer. Many people with cancer
  • feel better when they stay busy. You may still go to
  • work, even if you need to adjust your schedule.
  • You can also take part in hobbies such as music, crafts, or reading.


Sadness and Depression

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. -Maori Proverb

Many people with cancer feel sad or depressed. This is a normal response to any serious illness. When you're depressed, you may have very little energy, feel tired, or not want to eat.

Depression is sometimes a serious problem. If feelings of sadness and despair seem to take over your life, you may have depression. The box below lists eight common signs of depression. Let your health provider know if you have one or more of these signs almost every day.

Depression can be treated,i.e. with homeopathy or you talk about your feelings with a counselor or join a support group with others who have cancer.




Pain is one of the reasons people fear cancer so much. They are afraid that if they have pain, it will not be relieved. Having cancer does not mean that you will have pain.

To some people’s surprise, some cancers cause no physical pain at all. Even people with advanced cancers do not always have pain.

But if pain does occur, there are many ways to relieve or reduce it. Along with medicines, there are other ways to help manage pain, such as Homeopathic remedies, imagery (mental exercises designed to allow the mind to influence the body), biofeedback (a treatment method that uses monitoring devices to help people consciously control certain physical processes such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, sweating, and muscle tension), relaxation, distraction, surgery, and nerve blocks. A combination of pain control methods can be used if needed.

Even though almost everyone worries about pain, it may not be a problem for you. Some people don't  have any pain. Others have it only once in a while.

As soon as you have pain you should speak up.      Dealing with your pain can also help you deal with the feelings discussed in this section.

When you describe your pain to your health care providers, tell them:

  • Where you feel pain
  • What it feels like (sharp, dull, throbbing, steady)
  • How strong the pain feels
  • How long it lasts
  • What eases the pain and what makes it worse
  • What medicines you are taking for the pain and
  • how much they help.



You may feel guilty.

You may ask yourself if you could have noticed your symptoms earlier, or wonder what you did that may have caused the cancer. You may wonder if you were exposed to something at home or work that led to cancer. Or you may worry that other members of your family will also get cancer.

Many people with cancer feel guilty. For example, you may blame yourself for upsetting the people you love. You may worry that you are a burden to others, either emotionally or financially. Or you may envy other people's good health and be ashamed of this feeling. You might even blame yourself for lifestyle choices that could have led to your cancer. For example, that lying out in the sun caused your skin cancer or that smoking cigarettes led to your lung cancer.

These feelings are all normal.

Your family and friends may also feel guilty because:

  • They are healthy while you are sick
  • They can't help you as much as they want
  • They feel stressed and impatient

They may also feel guilty when they don't think they can give you all the care and understanding you need.

Counseling and support groups can help with these feelings of guilt. Let your doctor or nurse know if you, or someone in your family, would like to talk with a counselor or go to a support group.



You may feel hopeless

If you see cancer as a roadblock to a life full of health and happiness. It’s hard to feel positive and upbeat, especially if the future is uncertain. Just thinking about treatment and the time it will take out of your life can seem like too much to handle. Feelings of sadness or uncertainty may be made worse by your past experiences with cancer.

Hope - if you would like to read more about the importance of the powerful energy of hope go to:

nurturing hope

Once people accept that they have cancer, they often feel a sense of hope. There are many reasons to feel hopeful.

  • Cancer treatment can be successful. Millions of people who have had cancer are alive today.

  • People with cancer can lead active lives, even during treatment.

  • Your chances of living with--and living beyond       cancer are better now than they have ever been    before. People often live for many years after their  cancer treatment is over.

Some doctors think that hope may help your body deal with cancer. Scientists are looking at the question of whether a hopeful outlook and positive attitude helps people feel better. Here are some ways you can build your sense of hope:

  • Write down your hopeful feelings and talk about them with others.

  • Plan your days as you have always done.

  • Don't limit the things you like to do just because  you have cancer.

  • Look for reasons to hope.



You may have a sense of loss

linked to your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Cancer can change your sense of self, that is, how you think of your body, yourself, and your future. Grief is a normal response as you give up your old ideas of yourself and begin to develop ways to cope with the new, unwanted changes in your life. It may take time for you to become aware of these losses and changes. It can help if you share your grief with someone close to you. If there is  no one near you that you want to confide in, you might want to see a mental health professional. Your feelings need care too, just like your physical body needs care.




You might feel angry.

Anger, when channeled into the pursuit of change, can be a useful tool in our emotional palette, to read more about this go to: Anger

Many people feel angry or frustrated when they deal with cancer. You might find that you get mad or upset with the people you depend on. You may get upset with small things that never bothered you before.

While some people may not outwardly express their anger and frustration, others may direct their anger toward family members, friends, or health care professionals. This is usually not done on purpose. If you are only trying to vent your feelings, let people know that you are not angry with them and that it’s not their fault. Also let them know that you don’t  expect them to solve your problems – you just need them to listen.

It's normal to ask "Why me?" and be angry at:

  • The cancer
  • Your health care providers
  • Your healthy friends and loved ones
  • And if you are religious, you might even be angry with God.

Anger sometimes comes from feelings that are hard to show - such as fear, panic, frustration, anxiety, or helplessness. If you feel angry, don't pretend that everything is okay. Talk with your family and friends about it. Most of the time, talking will help you feel a lot better.
People can't always express their feelings. Anger sometimes shows up as actions instead of words.You may find that you yell a lot at the kids or the dog. You might slam doors.
Try to figure out why you are angry. Maybe you're afraid of the cancer or are worried about money. You might even be angry about your treatment.  


 Be True to Your Feelings - see more : your emotions

Some people pretend to be cheerful, even when they're not. They think that they won't feel sad or angry if they act cheerful. Or they want to seem as if they're able to handle the cancer themselves. Also, your family and friends may not want to upset you and will act as if nothing is bothering them. You may even think that  being cheerful may help your cancer go away.

When you have cancer, you have many reasons to be upset. "Down days" are to be expected. You don't have  to pretend to be cheerful when you're not. This can keep you from getting the help you need. Be honest and talk about all your feelings, not just the positive ones.

"The advice of well-meaning friends to be positive, optimistic, and upbeat can also be a call for silence. Ask them about it. Don't let them force you to put on a fake smile when that's the last thing you feel like doing."




People with cancer often feel lonely or distant from others. You may find that your friends have a hard time dealing with your cancer and may not visit. Some people might not even be able to call you on the phone. You may feel too sick to take part in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy. And sometimes, even when you are with people you love and care about, you may feel that no one understands what you are going through.

You may feel less lonely when you meet other people who have cancer. Many people feel better when they join a support group and talk with others who are  facing the same challenges. Link: 

Not everyone wants or is able to join a support group. Some people prefer to talk with just one person at a time. You may feel better talking to a close friend or family member, a social worker or counselor, or a member of your faith or spiritual community.

LINK:coping with cancer

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow. Swedish Proverb



Feeling Isolated

One of the side effects of cancer or any chronic illness is a feeling of isolation. People with cancer commonly feel cut off from the rest of the world or isolated within their own family. It is normal to feel like you are floundering with your feelings and life. Some people deny the reality of cancer or refuse to discuss it.

It is not uncommon to feel deserted and very isolated.              

As supportive as friends and family members may be, they often cannot understand what you are experiencing as you struggle to cope with a chronic illness. If you  can't talk or share your concerns within the family, consider talking to someone outside. Professional mentoring and counseling can provide support and an outlet for your frustrations. A mentor may also help open up lines of communication within the family.



Sharing Without Talking

For many, it's hard to talk about being sick. Others feel that cancer is a personal or private matter and find it hard to talk openly about it. If talking is hard for you, think about other ways to share your feelings. For instance, you may find it helpful to write about your feelings. This might be a good time to start a journal     or diary if you don't already have one. Writing about your feelings is a good way to sort through them and a good way to begin to deal with them. All you need to get started is something to write with and something to  write on.

Find more about journaling here: healing through writing

Journals can be personal or shared. People can use a journal as a way of 'talking' to each other. If you find it hard to talk to someone near to you about your cancer try starting a shared journal. Leave a booklet or pad in a private place that both of you select. When you need to share, write in it and return it to the private place. Your loved one will do the same. Both of you will be able to know how the other is feeling without having to speak aloud.

If you have e-mail, this can also be a good way to share without talking.


Keep in mind

Cancer is hard to deal with all alone. Although talking about it may not be easy at first, most people find that sharing their thoughts and feelings helps them deal with their cancer.

Some people find that it’s easier for them to face the reality of a new or scary situation if they learn as much as they can about it. This is especially true when you are dealing with a complex group of diseases like cancer. There is often a great fear of the unknown and uncertainty about what’s going to happen. Knowledge can help lessen the fear of the unknown. You can learn a lot about the type of cancer you have, its treatment, and your chances for recovery.

Be your own advocate.

Even though people facing cancer cannot change their diagnosis, they can seek out reliable, up-to-date information and talk to family members, friends, and their health care team. Finding good sources of support can help people with cancer take control of their situation and make informed decisions.

It’s important to work through your feelings about cancer, because how you feel can affect how you look at yourself, how you view life, and what decisions you make about treatment.

  • Choose a good listener. You may not need someone to        give you advice or tell you what to do. Instead, you may         want someone who wants to hear about and try to                  understand what life is like for you right now. You may need to look outside your family to find such a person.

  • Choose a good time to share. Sometimes people will           send signals to let you know they're willing to talk about cancer with you. Sometimes you can ask others about their thoughts and feelings.

  • Understand anger. Sometimes angry words come from emotions other than anger, like frustration, worry, or sadness. Try to figure out why you feel angry and why you need to express it. Don't run away from these feelings - share them and try to understand them.

  • Be true to your feelings. Remember that it's okay to be       in a bad mood. Acting cheerful won't give others a real            picture of how you feel, and holding in your true feelings         may even be harmful.

  • Turn to community resources for help. A support group     or a counselor might be able to provide more support.

  • Ask for support from family, friends, and others. Just having someone who cares and will listen to you can be very helpful. If friends or family members are not able to be supportive, find others who will. Health care professionals (such as            Cancer Mentors, social workers, psychologists, or other licensed health professionals) and support groups can be extra sources of support.

  • Get spiritual support through prayer, meditation, or other practices that help you feel more at peace. You may want        the guidance of a chaplain, pastor, rabbi, or other religious leader.

  • Pay attention to your physical needs for rest, nutrition, and other self-care measures.

  • Find ways to express your feelings, such as talking or writing in a journal.

  • Allow yourself private time and space.
  • Walk or exercise. Be sure to talk with your cancer care team about your plans before starting a new exercise program or activity.

  • Find out what helped other patients and families cope with cancer, and/or talk with other people diagnosed with the          same type of cancer.

  • Make changes at home to create a healthier environment;       talk with your mentor about making healthy lifestyle choices.

How do you know when your distress level is normal or more serious?

This question can be hard to answer because some distress is “normal” (or expected) when you have cancer. But certain signs and symptoms can warn you that your distress level is too high and is becoming serious. Some of these are:

  • Feeling overwhelmed to the point of panic

  • Being overcome by a sense of dread

  • Feeling so sad that you think you cannot go through treatment.

  • Being unusually irritable and angry

  • Feeling unable to cope with pain, tiredness, and nausea

  • Poor concentration, “fuzzy thinking,” and sudden memory problems.

  • Having a very hard time making decisions – even about little things.

  • Feeling hopeless – wondering if there is any point in going on.

  • Thoughts about cancer and/or death all the time.

  • Trouble getting to sleep or early waking (getting less than 4 hours of sleep a night)

  • Trouble eating (a decrease in appetite, or no appetite) for a few weeks.

  • Family conflicts and issues that seem impossible to resolve.

  • Questioning your faith and religious beliefs that once gave you comfort.

  • Feeling worthless and useless

Sometimes, things from the past may put you or your loved one in danger of greater distress and in need of help.

Here are some examples of past events that can cause distress to be worse when you have cancer:

  • Having a loved one who died from cancer
  • Having a recent serious illness or death of someone close     to you
  • Having had depression or suicidal thoughts in the past
  • Memories of painful events from your past that come back as nightmares or panic attacks

If any of these describe you or a loved one, talk to your doctor, homeopath, councellor or nurse. You may need help dealing with distress.



 Next page: Your Medical Appointment

   time of uncertainty

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