Sunday, November 3, 2013

Responding to a Cancer Diagnosis

It has been three years and three months since I was diagnosed with Cancer.

Since then I have lost two friends to Cancer and at least three of my friends have been diagnosed with Cancer.

With every new diagnosis my heart hurts. Even though it has been three years and three months I remember my diagnosis day. I remember the month that lead up to my diagnosis day. A month where I was aware that something maybe wrong but not sure what it was. I want to erase the fear, the pain, the sleepless nights that my friends are experiencing.

I know I can not.

However, I can hold you close to my heart. Think of you throughout the day. Hold your hand. Listen to you. Validate you. Support you. Laugh with you. Love you.

Each of us processes news differently. I provide the following to try and help those who are newly diagnosed.

There are no magic words to erase the diagnosis. 

None of us have the right words. Sometimes just a simple I am sorry is sufficient. I do not believe the Cancer patient expects you to fix it. Listen. hold their hand. On my diagnosis day, my husband drove me from the doctors office to the nail salon. He held my hand the entire duration of a pedicure. He did not need to talk. He just needed to be there.

A Cancer diagnosis does not automatically mean a death sentence.

Maybe in decades past this was true. But not today. Yes, you are going to think about your mortality. You will dream about it. Maybe even have nightmares. But the reality is, with early diagnosis, the odds are in your favor.

 What does your game face look like?

If you have not found it yet, start looking for it. Attitude is extremely important. Have you ever watched a professional sports team? They may down in the score but they play all the way to the buzzer like they are going to come back and win. This is how we face this diagnosis. Nope, it is not going to be easy. Winning never is. Winning requires sacrifice. Winning requires commitment. Dedication. All of these things you will need in the months facing you. Surgeries are painful. Chemo is wicked. Radiation burns. They all have side effects. Find your game face. Wear it.

Get a support system. 

Wearing a game face maybe necessary but it can be exhausting. There are times when you just wanna lean on someone else. Some of us, myself including, are not use to leaning. We are use to doing the holding. It is time to put on the other shoe. If someone wants to drive you; say okay. If someone wants to make you dinner; say okay. Have friends you can laugh with. Have friends who will listen to your fears.

Of course not all support systems are informal. You will need formal ones as well. Doctors, Nutritionist, Nurses. Find professionals you connect with. Find those you trust. If you do not have health insurance, apply for state sponsored health insurance. I was amazed at what my Doctor's could have done if I needed it. They offered me short term disability and of course helped with my FMLA. They also helped me alter my work environment so it remained a safe place for me to work. Reach out. Talk to your health care providers about your needs so they can help you.

There are also all kinds of support groups out there. Some are specific to your type of cancer. Some are general for cancer patients. I remember one time when I was in a cancer support group, I took my game face off. I did not need to be strong. I embraced my insecurities and  they supported me.

I know Diagnosis time is a difficult time. Over the next few weeks things are going to happen so quickly it might make you dizzy. My phone is always on and I am here if you just need to talk. I promise, the fog will lift and you will see blue sky's again.

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