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Learn About Coping With Diagnosis and Treatment©
Written by Cancer Center Staff

Source: Cancer Resource Room

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"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 you.

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 stress.
  • 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.

Seek Support
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 to help.
  • 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 to others.
  • Encourage friends and family to just listen .
  • When friends offer to help, give them a task. For example, ask them to walk the dog.
Find Your Learning Style
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.
  • 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.
As Your Needs Change, Change Your Ways of Coping
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.
What's New
To Search Pub Med, please see below.
Consumer and selected health professional journals

Support & 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 ahead.

To find the upcoming education programs on "Living with Cancer," "Coping with Cancer Pain, " or "Chemotherapy" and others, please see the HOPES calendar.

Services at Massachusetts General Hospital