Facing a cancer diagnosis is unlike the usual challenges people from all walks of life face. In my previous article, I had explained how a cancer diagnosis can be life-altering for the patients, such as shifting of priorities and experiencing the feeling of being overwhelmed.
One of my goals as a doctor is to help people diagnosed with cancer and their loved ones become empowered because with that comes a feeling of control and a reduction in anxiety.
If you or a loved one are newly diagnosed, following the steps below can make a tremendeous difference as you begin the journey of acceptance and survivorship.
1. Keep calm
Panic is an easy “go-to” when you hear terrible news. Your body automatically goes into a fight-or-flight response when when you are scared, which is why you want to run out of the doctor’s room screaming.
Remember to breath. When you feel the rush of adrenaline coursing through your body, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. This pattern is scientifically proven to help change the stress response you feel and gets you out of the “freak out” mode.
2. Find a doctor who will participate in your welness, not in your ilness
Many of the health professionals treat the ilness, not the person. If your doctor is dismissing your concerns, do not hesitate to find another one. They work for you and not the other way round. Your doctor is resonsible to take care of both your physical and psychological concerns.
3. Ask your doctor how much time you have to make a decision and begin treatment
My instinct is to take immediate action, to do something and do it now. This is sometimes necessary, but often is not.
I urge all newly diagnosed cancer patients to ask their doctor how much time they have to make a decision and to begin treatment. In most cases you have time to do more research, get second opinion and even consult with a counsellor to discuss your options, personal goals and wishes.
4. Gather the right facts and write them down
I always expect my newly diagnosed patients to ask me questons like:
a. What is the exact name of my cancer?
b. What is the stage of my cancer?
c. Is there anything we know or can learn about my disease that will help guide my treatment decisions such as biomaker or genetic test?
Write down your questions, and concerns in advance of your appointment.
Think about what it is you want the healthcare team to know about you personally and your goals as you explore treatment options together.
5. Ask about the risks and benefits of any given treatment
Any cancer treatment, whether it is surgery or chemotherapy, it can cause a variety of changes in the body.
Always be curious about the side effects of proposed treatments and question your doctor, such as, how can the potential side effects be managed or prevented?