Hearing that you have cancer is very frightening. Fear can lower your
tolerance to pain, leave you feeling helpless and alone, and turn you
inside out, feeling out-of-control. Don't let the fear of having cancer
paralyze you, and shut you down.
||Ottie and Can-Do have created a Top Ten list of survival tips and suggestions for you, derived from reading over 100 books written by cancer survivors, to help take back some control and to help take the fear out of hearing
you have cancer.
These suggestions are not offered as a substitute
for conventional, professional medical advice. If you have medical concerns,
please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
1. Don't Panic!
Panicking means your thought-process has already jumped to the worst possible
conclusion -- "I'm gonna die." This may not be true. Cancer does not mean
death. It is a word, not a sentence. This fatalistic thinking is not healthy
for you and will only get in the way of rational and positive action.
Making decisions while in a panicked state might do more harm than good.
Allow yourself to take the time you need to gather your thoughts and consider
what you've been told. This could take a few days. You need to be able
to make clear decisions about yourself, your healthcare team and your
treatment. In order to make these decisions, you need to stay in control.
This is more easily said than done, but you deserve this time. Give yourself
permission to take it!
2. You're in Charge!
You are the most important person on your wellness team! Know this and
act on it! Take charge of your treatment. Surround yourself with specialists,
technicians, family, friends and support. These people should be working
at your direction to get you well again.
If you are already feeling overwhelmed by the diagnosis and feel you cannot
handle anything else -- think again! Leaving important life-decisions up
to someone else is a BIG mistake. Allowing others to do this makes you
dependent on them and you become a passive spectator. Taking charge will
greatly enhance your chances of survival!
3. Make a Phone Call!
Call 1-800-4-CANCER. This is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Cancer
Information Service (CIS). Ask them to send you accurate, up-to-date information
on your particular type and stage of cancer. Ask for information on state-of-the-art
treatment options, comprehensive cancer centers and clinical trials. Your
call is confidential. This information is free!
4. Ask Questions!
You are the consumer. You have the right to ask your doctor questions,
questions and more questions. Ask away until you are satisfied. He is
required by law to explain them to you in an understandable manner. Make
sure you understand the answers. Have your doctor explain it again if
you don't. Do not pretend to understand something because you feel dumb
or intimidated asking again. Now is not the time to "assume" anything!
Take the time to write down your questions before going to visit your
doctor. This will save time in the long run. Take someone along with you
for moral support. They can help ask questions and write down answers.
It is helpful to take along a tape recorder. Most doctors have no objection
to this. If they do, you should be looking for another doctor!
5. Get a Second Opinion!
It's a good idea to get a second opinion from a board-certified oncologist
before starting your treatment. Getting a second opinion does not mean
you are in denial about your diagnosis. It ensures that your doctor stands
a better chance of treating your cancer right the first time and offers
you the opportunity to meet someone more in tune with your needs.
If you're concerned about upsetting your doctor, you might want to ask
yourself this -- what is more important here, hurting my doctor's feelings
or increasing my chances of survival?
Take all your medical records with you, or have them sent for you. DON'T
ask your doctor to recommend someone for a second opinion. It's natural
for your doctor to recommend a friend. You may not get an accurate second
opinion if you do this because doctors find it difficult to challenge
the opinions of associates who are their friends. Find someone in a different
group, possibly in a separate hospital or even in another town. You deserve
to have the benefit of more than one opinion. It is your right to be fully
6. The Right Doctor for You!
There is a strong connection between the probability of recovery and the
confidence you have in your healthcare team! You are seeking a balance
of interpersonal skills and medical expertise when choosing this team.
First, you want a doctor who is an expert in your type of cancer! This
is very important for building your confidence in your doctor. Get to
know about your doctor and be sure that
he/she is an expert in their field.
Second, you want a doctor you are comfortable with. You want someone who
cares about your emotional well-being and who takes an interest in you
as a person. You want a doctor who welcomes your active participation,
not someone who resents you for making your own decisions or for asking
lots of questions. You are looking for someone who sees you as a person
first, not just a patient.
It may take a while to find the right doctor for you, but you are worth
it! You and your doctor are going to be together for a long, long time.
Build a rapport and make it a mutually respective relationship right from
the start! You're looking for someone to "partner" with. You especially
want a doctor who gives you hope!
7. Treatment Options!
Make sure you know about ALL the treatment options available to you. If
you are getting consistent information about your treatment options (let's
say, from your diagnosing doctor, your second opinion doctor and the National
Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service) making this decision will
be easy and straightforward.
If you are getting different opinions about what treatment to follow,
you need to keep looking until you have information that is consistent.
You should not be confused about which treatment protocol to follow!
When you've done your homework and feel you have the best protocol for
your treatment, decide and move forward with it! Making this decision
is life affirming. Believe in it!
8. Informed Consent!
DO NOT SIGN A BLANK CONSENT FORM! Read it! Read it! Read it!
You should fully understand the exact procedure that is to be performed.
The doctor -- not the nurse, the associate or the assistant, but the doctor --
is obligated to explain to you the purpose of the procedure, the risks
involved, the risks of not having the procedure and any other alternatives --
in words you can understand!
You have the right to take the time to read this form completely and ask
questions. As many times as you need to in order to fully understand what
you are consenting to. You have the right to cross out statements you
do not agree to. Remember that consent means voluntary agreement. You
should not feel pressured into signing something you did not take the
time to read or understand because someone is standing at the foot of
your bed waiting for your signature. Let them wait!
Exercise your right to be in control of your situation and not be helpless.
These are important decisions only you can make for yourself. You don't
want to wake up from that procedure to find out it wasn’t what you "expected."
You don't want to hear yourself saying, "I should have asked, but.... " Maintain
your sense of free choice and self-respect, read and understand the informed
9. Reframing Cancer!
You have cancer, but that doesn't mean you are
cancer. You are still you! You can view your cancer as a threat or a challenge.
It's entirely up to you! Do you have cancer -- or does the cancer have
you? The way you think of yourself in relation to your cancer greatly
determines how you experience your illness -- or your wellness.
You can help yourself maintain a positive outlook by "reframing" your
cancer. Say to yourself, "I have cancer.
I am not cancer." This is reframing.
Reframing cancer means you perceive your problems as possibilities! A
crisis turns into a challenge! Obstacles become opportunities! Stumbling
blocks are seen as stepping-stones!
Use cancer as a turning point in your life! Maybe cancer is a message
for you to change. Take stock of your life. Are you happy? Are you fulfilled?
If given the chance, what would you do differently from this moment on?
Use cancer as a wake-up call to make changes in areas of your life that
are not satisfying to you. Now's your chance!
10. Managing Stress!
If you are alive, you're stressed. There's no way around it. Having a
diagnosis of cancer adds tremendous anxiety to an already stressed life.
How you manage your stress is very important for your recovery. Stress
taxes an immune system that is already compromised. It zaps your energy,
leaving you irritable, angry and depressed. You cannot afford this. It
will drain you!
Doing your homework and being prepared helps to ease anxiety. Finding
ways to relax are important, too. Meditation is an outstanding way to
relax your mind and your body and replenish yourself. Taking time out
for you is a great stress reducer!
Think positively and repeat affirmations throughout each day. Eliminate
energy-zappers -- toxic people, unhealthy relationships. Negativity depresses
your immune system! Listen to your body. Good nutritional habits, exercise
(reduces anxiety and increases energy) and proper rest (allows your body
to heal) are excellent ways to help alleviate stress.
Allow people to help. People want to help, just tell them how
they can do it. Being with friends, sharing concerns, laughing - knowing
you're not alone - is good for you and builds self-confidence. Find a
hobby, take time to play.
There are as many different ways to relax and de-stress, as there are
people. Find ways that work best for you. Keeping stress at a minimum
is a very important goal on your road to wellness!