Source: Cancer Resource Room
"If you have
recently been diagnosed with cancer,
you may be feeling scared and overwhelmed.
You may find that the body that you
have depended on for so long is suddenly
doing strange things. You seem to
have very little control over what
is happening to you." Ovarian Cancer Survivor
Learning that you have cancer can bring
up a wide range of emotions and thoughts.
Feelings of fear, sadness, anxiety or
hopelessness are common. You may have
concerns about work, school, family or
friends as well. For many patients, it
is hard to imagine that they will ever
be able to cope with their cancer, as
well as all these other challenges.
Remember that you already have ways to
cope. Throughout our lives, we all use
coping skills to solve problems and manage
stress. We cope with small problems like
missing a train. We cope with bigger
stresses like starting a new job or moving.
The skills you have already used will
help you handle the new experience of
your cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Each person will cope with stress differently.
There is no "right way." However, thinking
about how you have already solved problems
and managed stress will help you find
the coping skills that work best for
Here are some suggestions.
Control the Things You Can Control
One of the stresses of cancer is feeling
out of control. You may be worried that
you can't rely on your body as you have
in the past. You can help your body by:
- Eating well-Good nutrition will encourage
healing, provide energy and reduce
- Getting enough sleep-Try to get at
least eight hours a night.
- Exercising-Exercise, such as walking,
may help reduce stress. Some people
find yoga, tai chi or massage helpful.
- Participating in creative activities
like writing, listening to music,
or gardening may help.
People who help you solve problems and
make you feel safe can reduce feelings
of distress. These may be people you
already know or someone new who is offering
Find Your Learning Style
- Identify family or friends that you
feel comfortable talking with about
your cancer, feelings or thoughts.
- Sometimes talking with a counselor,
chaplain, social worker or other
professional is helpful.
- It's okay
to let people know when you don't
feel like talking. Have someone
else take phone calls or give updates
- Encourage friends
and family to just
- When friends
offer to help, give them
a task. For example,
ask them to walk the dog.
For some people, learning is a way of
coping. For others, it is not. If you
choose to learn about your type of cancer
and treatment, here are some suggestions.
As Your Needs Change, Change Your Ways
- Get information when you're ready.
Some people want information right
away. Others do not. You can also
let your family do the learning instead.
- Learn in ways that work for you.
People learn in different ways. Some
people prefer reading, while others
may want to watch a video. Other
people may want to talk with someone
who has been through the same experience.
- Learn only as much as you find useful.
If you feel overloaded with information,
your stress will only increase.
- When you have appointments with your
doctor, bring along someone you trust
to listen carefully and take notes.
- Keep a notepad by your bedside and
in other convenient places in your
home, so that you can jot down questions
as soon as you think of them.
- Bring these written questions to
your doctor appointments.
Cancer is an ongoing, changing challenge.
You will experience many different emotions
at different times during your diagnosis.
- You might use several of these coping
skills at one time.
- If what you have
been doing isn't helping anymore,
try something new.
- Talk to your
healthcare team if you feel overwhelming
sadness or anxious feelings that
are getting in the way of coping.
To Search Pub Med, please see below.
and selected health professional journals
& Education Programs
We know that being diagnosed with cancer can be stressful for you and your
family. We offer a variety of cancer support services to help patients and
families gain the support and information they will need to meet the challenges
To find the upcoming education programs on
"Living with Cancer," "Coping
with Cancer Pain, " or "Chemotherapy"
and others, please see the HOPES
Services at Massachusetts General Hospital