I have just been diagnosed with cancer. What steps do you suggest I take?
1) First have a good cry with a close friend or family member. There is even a book with this title; First you Cry by Betty Rollins, perhaps the first published personal account of surviving a disease that wasn't talked about at that time. Ms. Rollins is still alive, 20+ years after her first diagnosis, and the book is even going to be re-published this Fall.
2) Then remember that someone somewhere has survived your type and stage of cancer. Read the book 50 Essential Things to do when the Doctor says "It's Cancer!" by Greg Anderson, who was told he has 30 days to live after a lung cancer diagnosis nearly 15 years ago!
3) Choose *active hope*. Surviving this disease may be the "biggest project of your life, for your life". I cannot over-emphasize this. Ask yourself and your medical team members "What can I do to help myself?" Even if you only change the odds 2% by being an equal partner in your care, you might be tipping the scale from 49% to 51% for long-term survival. Think of the psychological power that comes from being part of the majority!
4) Put together your whole support team and delegate what needs to be done (from taking the kids to after-school activities, meals, to finding a doctor). This is not the time to be shy. People really want to help you, but they may need to take direction from you. Read Amy Harwell's book When Your Friend (or Relative) gets Cancer. Another book by a cancer survivor who beat slim odds for survival that gives you hundreds of ideas how to have friends be helpful.
5) Get as many medical opinions as you need to make an informed decision about the choices you have for treatment - don't be shy about this! There are very few *gold standards* in cancer therapy. Make sure your additional opinions are from doctors who did their oncology training at different medical centers. Read information on my links about Medical Decision Making. Also read Steve Dunn's guide about how to search the Internet for information about your cancer.
6) Choose a doctor(s) who is truly supportive of your goals and gives you hope. I cannot overemphasize this enough! Read the link on my links page about the importance of hope.
7) There is increasing scientific evidence that what you bring to the equation can help you survive longer and at the very least improve your quality of life. No one knows the complete answer to how to survive cancer, but activities such as participating in support groups, prayer, meditation, nutrition, exercise, and laughter (as a starting points) all may contribute their share to increasing your odds for long-term survival. There is not a *magic bullet* (not any conventional therapy nor any dietary supplement) for full recovery from cancer. It requires a comprehensive or *holistic* approach to achieve full physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual recovery.
8) After you have chosen your treatment goals and path, believe in your choice with 1000% conviction!! Again, I cannot overemphasize the power of belief. Do not worry that that your path is very different from the next person's. You both can achieve success. Recovery paths will be unique, just as you are unique. In addition to different conventional therapies (such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation), you may feel that certain teas and yoga are *right* for you, but the next person may choose Tai Chi and meditation to supplement their conventional cancer therapy . There is more than one path to the mountain top!
9) When friends and relatives bring you information about *alternative* treatments for cancer (and they will - I have grocery bags full of audio tapes and literature that people sent or brought me), first thank them for caring so deeply for you. Then tell them you will call them if you want more details about the particular product or treatment about which they brought you information. These choices are yours and yours alone to make - don't permit yourself to be pressured. Read some of the information on alternative medicine for cancer that I have on my links page. My first choice in books is still Michael Lerner's Choices in Healing. The entire book is on the Internet.
10) Read, read, read and be the patient with 10,000 questions (this is true for both conventional and alternative cancer therapies). Don't take any one source of information as the *gospel truth*, particularly if that source has a financial interest in the product or procedure.
11) You will finally reach a point where you don't want or need any more information. That's ok! Then it's time to feel comfortable with the choices you have made for your recovery efforts and turn the outcome over to your faith. If I die from cancer, I will do so at peace knowing that I gave it my all; I looked under every stone and tried everything that made sense to me. In the meantime, I sleep well at night knowing that I am trying to help someone else have an easier cancer journey than I had.
Best wishes for health, healing of the spirit, and hope!
faq posted 9/00
These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.
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