Accepting Your Diagnosis

 
Coming to terms with your cancer diagnosis
 
“You have cancer”. Three earth-shattering words that no one ever wants to hear - words that have the power to turn your entire world upside down.
 
Cancer patients often describe that the first time their doctor confirms their diagnosis as: “It’s as if time suddenly stops and you cease to hear anything after the word cancer”.
 
If you have been recently diagnosed with cancer, you may be struggling with a flood of emotions that leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused.  Your entire life as you know it has been fundamentally and irrevocably changed. Despite the ground-breaking medical advancements that have been achieved in cancer treatment, cancer remains a particularly difficult disease to accept emotionally, as it is still so commonly associated with hardship, suffering, and the possibility of death.
 
Some emotions you might experience include:
 
Denial:
 
Having probably been exposed to facts about cancer through public health campaigns or by seeing people you know affected by it, it nevertheless may seem inconceivable to you that you are now part of that statistic.  Everyone wants to believe that their diagnosis was a mistake. “The doctor must be wrong”, “this can’t be happening”, “I don’t believe it” are probably just some of the thoughts that went through your mind when you heard the news. You may even  have felt the urge to ignore the news and continue with your life as if the diagnosis never happened.
 
This sort of denial is understandable in the short term, as it may take you a few days to adjust and get over the shock of diagnosis. However, denial becomes harmful and detrimental when, in some cases, people absolutely refuse to even acknowledge their cancer, as if by ignoring it, it will simply go away. While trying to act like your cancer has not affected your life at all may be tempting, it is better to face your diagnosis head on and to fully acknowledge your feelings however difficult and painful they may be. Suppressing your feelings may cause you to act out in other ways, such as experiencing sudden outbursts of anger.
 
Anger:
 
Don’t be surprised if you feel anger towards your diagnosis. You might be thinking “Why me?” You may get irrationally angry at your doctors, the hospital, or even the entire medical profession for not having a quick, effective cure to end your suffering. You might even be angry with yourself for being ill, or because you feel that you somehow did something to cause your cancer (even though logically you know that something like this is beyond anyone’s control). This anger may manifest itself in your treatment of others, causing you to act out, be impatient, or say hurtful things.
 
Anger contributes absolutely nothing positive to your situation. If you feel unable to manage your anger, it is important to talk to a professional who can help you come to terms with your feelings and manage your anger in more effective ways, and channel your energy into more positive behaviors.
 
Fear:
 
Your anger may be concealing a more potent emotion: fear. As you come to terms with your diagnosis, you will probably find yourself having to face a lot of fears and worries: fear of treatment, financial worries, fear of pain, and fear of death. 
 
Fears and worries are often magnified when we keep them to ourselves.  When you talk about what you’re afraid of with people that you love and trust, these problems seem to shrink. Don’t be afraid of sharing your fears. By acknowledging them openly, you will not only rob them of their power to really affect you, but you may also find that it is beneficial to getting the support you need.
 
Family Pressure:
 
In addition to professional support, support from family and friends is crucial. Their understanding and care can be a vital source of strength for you. However, at times, they can unfortunately be a source of stress. You may discover that some people are unhelpful, give bad advice, are insensitive or try to push their opinions about the best type of treatment on you. Having such people around you can be quite upsetting, particularly if they are close family members or friends.
 
It would be best to remember though that like you, your family and friends are also trying to come to terms with your diagnosis, and some may not have the best coping mechanisms to deal with this news. In their efforts to be honest and helpful, they may come across as pushy, opinionated, and tactless instead. The most effective way to deal with this situation is to be honest with them about how their behavior makes you feel, and ask for a professional counselor to also speak to them about effective ways to cope and communicate with someone who has cancer.
 
Above all, remember that even though your family may insist on knowing what’s best for you, only you and your physician will truly know what’s in your best interest concerning treatment. Don’t let other people’s opinions sway you.
 
Acceptance and Hope:
 
Your feelings may confuse you or scare you but acknowledging them is an important part of coming to terms with your cancer and having enough strength and conviction to move forward. Cancer will change your life in many ways. Aside from coping with treatment, it will test the limits of your endurance, and you will discover that you are far stronger than you think you are.
 
You will reevaluate and cherish your relationships with your family and friends, and give you a new outlook on how precious life is. Try to refrain from feeling too sad too soon. Your diagnosis is one step towards treatment, and hopefully an eventual cure. Try to regard this as a positive step and focus on living life as fully as you can and making the most out of every day.
 
“Once you choose hope, anything is possible” – Christopher Reeves.
 
The one essential element to fighting your disease is hope. Hope keeps us going, keeps us rising out of bed every day ready to take on whatever comes our way. We fight with determination in the hope that things will get better, and they often do. Most of all, hope gives you the will to live.
 
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.
-          Anonymous