What you can do after a diagnosis
A new cancer diagnosis can bring a rollercoaster of emotions from shock and anger to confusion and depression. These are all very normal feelings to have during this time – and there will be many questions to answer and decisions to make. In the meantime, here are a few pointers to help you navigate life after diagnosis.
Manage your information
There will be a lot of information coming your way – and it’s up to you how much information you want. Some will want all the gritty details, while others prefer to operate on a ‘need to know’ basis. Whichever you choose, it’s a good idea to take a support person to your appointments – or record your conversation – so they can help you remember important details. Don’t be afraid to ask questions repeatedly and if you find it helpful, get written copies of the information you’re given. If you are going to Google, do it wisely and get your information from reputable sites.
Look after yourself
It may feel like you don’t have a lot of control over what’s happening at the moment, so think about what you can control in your life that will help you stay well. What lifestyle choices can you make? Where can you add fun into your life? If you stop work during treatment, is there something else you’ve always wanted to try out?
Accept the diagnosis and what that means for your life. For instance, it could mean thinking about how your treatment will affect your lifestyle – such as relationships, finances and work – and what support you want and need during this time. Take your medication and follow instructions from your medical team too.
Finally, take time for yourself and practice self-compassion. Let out your feelings about the diagnosis and what you’re experiencing, whether that’s journaling or going to counselling.
Get a support crew together
You’ll likely have plenty of offers for help, and don’t be afraid to accept them. Keep a list handy of what help you need so you can give people jobs when they ask. Or you can set up an online roster on sites like Support Crew, where people can volunteer for tasks like dropping off dinner or taking you to appointments. It may also help to find someone on the same journey as you, who you can share your experiences with. You can ask your medical team to introduce you to other patients or join our online community mybc.
Decide who to tell – and how much to tell them.
You may want to tell everyone about your diagnosis, or you may prefer to keep it to a select group. Whoever you choose, ideally you’ll share the news with your manager and family first. If you don’t want to field questions asking how you are or how treatment is going, consider nominating a ‘communication person’, who is responsible for updating everyone on your journey (with your blessing on what’s shared, of course). While you can share information face to face, you could also choose to create an email tree or use social media to keep everyone in the loop, whether that’s documenting your breast cancer journey on Instagram or creating a private Facebook group in which to share updates.
You can find out more about what to expect after a breast cancer diagnosis, by watching our webinar ‘Newly diagnosed? What you need to know’.