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17 Tips for Those Newly Diagnosed With Cancer, From Cancer Survivors

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If you were recently diagnosed with cancer, it may all feel overwhelming and frightening. You are dealing with new doctors as well as a slew of appointments and tests before you even begin treatment. As with any new diagnosis, there are often more questions than answers. There can also be a lot of baggage that comes with a cancer diagnosis. And you may not be getting the kind of support you need.

We are here to help! We reached out to our Mighty community of cancer survivors — people who have been in your shoes — to ask them to share messages, words of advice, or affirmations that stuck with them on their cancer journey. And they delivered!

We hope these words of support and encouragement can give you some comfort, knowing you are not alone. Here is what they said:

How to find the support you will need during cancer treatment

“Join a support group with similar issues. For example, I have ocular melanoma, and I joined a Facebook group of people who have it. These people are going through or have been through it and can offer support, advice, and help you be proactive.” — Jan N.

“Sometimes the people you thought would be there for you won’t be able to handle what’s going on. That’s OK. They’re not bad people. People you’d never have expected to be solidly there for you will step up 10-fold: let them.” — Delucia B.

“Post-surgery, I thought I would be fine emotionally and move on from my life, thinking everything would go back to normal. But I had severe anxiety and depression. I ended up joining a cancer support group, and it really helped me. Many people who don’t have cancer don’t understand that feelings like survivor’s guilt can happen even after successful treatment. Find people to talk to.” — Vera L.

Practical tips for doctors visits and appointments 

“Take someone with you to all appointments, with a binder to take down notes because all of the information you will be receiving is too much to process on your own.” — Patricia D.

“Ask for a copy of your reports and keep them in a notebook. Sometimes when you have multiple doctors, having your own copy makes sharing so much simpler. There have been countless times my GP or specialist didn’t have a report or test results the other had.” — Paula S.

“You are your own best advocate. Learn as much as possible about your cancer and research the *best* facilities for that type. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions. If you’re not up to the task, find someone who will speak for you and go with you to appointments. Knowledge is power, even in sickness!” — Irene S.

A reality check

“Expect to find out who your real friends are and trust in that process; you don’t need negativity in your life.” — Abiaileen K.

“Hugs. This is going to be crappy. Don’t be afraid to tell people to take their advice and ‘shove it’ if it’s not helpful. Be blunt if you need to. Your treatment plan is yours, not anyone else’s. The chemo will probably make you feel like crap, so make sure that you’re choosing to eat and do things that make you feel good. Lastly: get connected with a pain management doctor right from the get-go before things get bad. Don’t wait until you need them.” — Sara M.

“Don’t be afraid to be pissed off and angry. Toxic positivity and ‘fight talk’ will make you feel like you’re not doing enough on your low points. Finally, get yourself a little gift after each appointment/treatment.” — Jennifer E.

“There is no right way to get through. You will find the way that works for you. Let go of other people’s expectations. Somedays you will want to do things for yourself even if it takes triple the time compared to someone helping. Somedays you will want to curl up in a ball and do nothing. And that is OK too. You don’t have to be a “warrior” or “inspirational” all the time, so don’t beat yourself up!” — Carol T.

Finding light amidst the dark 

“Live your life. My younger son and I decided to start going to punk concerts together. We have seen at least 50 bands and I’ve been in several mosh pits!” — Sandra M.

“Take time for you. Feel the way you feel; it’s OK to be honest. Find something you love and do it. Reading, painting, coloring building with Lego. I did them all. Or just sitting quietly listening to music.” — Sally M.

“Plan for the worst. Hope for the best.” — Richard F.

“Take one day at a time. Focus on a purpose to make it through the treatment. My grandchild was my reason to make it.” — Elizabeth W.

“It is easy to get lost in the what-ifs, the parade of appointments stretching into infinity, and the worry about life after cancer. There will be moments that are full of grief and fear, and that is OK. Let them flow through you and past you like a river you cannot hold back. You don’t have to have all the answers now — you will be able to deal with whatever comes up when it comes up. Sending love to you always, dear one. No one should have to fight this. Love, a 2x survivor.” —Robyn L.

Tips on cancer treatment 

“Always eat. Even if it’s something small, like a few squares of chocolate: it’s always good to just nibble. Being sick on something small is better than no stomach. Plus you don’t want to get into a routine of not eating.” — Jade S.

“Adequate pain management and muscle relaxants are vital to your well being. Tylenol is not remotely up to the task of a mastectomy and reconstruction. Fight for it.” — Lori A.

Some of these responses have been lightly modified to adhere to The Mighty’s editorial guidelines. 

Getty image by Halfpoint Images

Originally published: June 2, 2022
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