Coping With Cancer Diagnosis

April 29, 2024
Categories: Physical Health
0 min read
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Nobody wants to hear the dreaded ‘C’ word when they’re at their physician’s office but sadly according to the NHS, 1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Learning that one has cancer is devastating, for the one diagnosed and their family and friends. This highlights how important it is to know that coping with cancer does not have to be as lonely as it may feel. Cancer and its treatment are hard enough, so it’s important to take support from friends and family members, and/or support groups in your area. There is also the support of your health care team who will talk you through your treatment options. This article will discuss how to deal with cancer diagnosis. So whether it’s you, a close friend, or a family member that has been diagnosed, its important to know how to deal with cancer psychologically and emotionally, as well as medically.

How to Cope With Cancer Diagnosis

Get the Facts About Your Cancer Diagnosis

Dealing with cancer is only going to be made harder if you’re unaware of what you need to know. This means that you should be able to speak to your medical team openly and directly. If you don’t trust their advice, or feel unsure in any aspect, then you shouldn’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Knowing the facts will give you a starting point when dealing with cancer diagnosis, and help you to consider all the options available to you. It’s also about feeling secure. If you feel uncertain about any of the facts, at a time in which you’re likely feeling quite uncertain as it is, you will only add to your worry. So get the facts.

Maintain Hope and Optimism

When discussing how to deal with cancer, it’s not just about medical care, it’s also about what we do for our mental and emotional wellbeing, because this affects physical health. The science around the mind-body connection is discovering what many wise cultures have known for centuries; the body achieves what the mind believes. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe coping with cancer is impossible, you will feel resigned, this will release stress hormones in your body, and prevent the release of helpful hormones. Your hormones will affect your mood as well, such that you behave in ways to reflect your pessimism, further harming your healing. This is not mumbo-jumbo, it’s scientifically proven. The body goes where the mind does.

Talk to Your Friends and Family

Cancer is a scary diagnosis, for all who hear about it, this is why sometimes family and friends will want to try to cheer you up or distract you from what’s happening. But, this can make your experience of cancer a much lonelier place, and it means you are without the support you need to help you through. This is why when coping with cancer diagnosis, you must share your feelings with a family member or friend, or a cancer support group. Coping with anything alone just makes it harder, and dealing with cancer diagnosis should not be one of these things. This means explaining what’s going on for you, so people can be there in the way you need.

Anticipate Possible Physical Changes

Learning how to cope with cancer diagnosis involves many things, one of which is the possible changes to your body. This can happen because of the disease but also because of the side effects of cancer treatment. For example, some cancer treatments can affect how your body works and feels, like reduced sex drive, changes in sensation, or fatigue. Other treatments might affect how your body looks, such as changes to your skin, hair, and nails. Or there may be swelling, or changes to your weight. Changes can be temporary or permanent so coping with cancer is a multi-dimensional experience, requiring a holistic response. You have to be prepared for all kinds of challenges which is why you will need support.

Express Your Emotions

Something that many cancer survivors recommend when they talk about their experience of dealing with cancer is talking. Cancer affects all aspects of a person’s being; the body, one’s mind, our psychology, and our emotions. Emotional changes relate to the initial diagnosis and what this means for our identity and life. Then there is the treatment and how this impacts one’s emotional self and body image. Individuals may experience, anger, fear, worry, resignation, guilt, sadness, shock, and all that’s in between. This is why it’s important to have outlets to express your emotions when coping with cancer diagnosis. This may be through journalling, sharing your feelings with loved ones, or other activities that help you release your feelings.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

People often talk about the importance of a healthy and balanced lifestyle as a way of preventing cancer. This becomes more important when dealing with cancer diagnosis. For example, physical exercise can help recovery in various ways like reducing tiredness as well as some treatment side effects. Exercise can also help us to regulate mood, decreasing anxiety and depression. Strengthening one’s body can help us to feel stronger and reduce the risk of other health issues. Eating well is also important because some foods aid recovery due to their health benefits, whilst others are carcinogenic, so focusing on diet can be one of the best ways to aid recovery. Smoking and drinking should also be reduced or stopped.

Faith and Spirituality

Cancer and its treatment are challenging experiences, and a time when one might question how to deal with cancer diagnosis. One way that some individuals manage is through their faith or spiritual beliefs. These beliefs can offer comfort and solace at a time of deep uncertainty and fear. Through our faith or spirituality, we can find guidance and peace. This may be through one’s relationship with the belief system, through learning more about it, or connecting with it on a deeper level. You may find wisdom and courage from the teachings of your belief system, maybe making contact with people who also share it. One’s faith or spiritual beliefs can offer ways to think that are powerful and nourish the soul.

Maintain Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is important throughout the lifespan, and the problem of low self-esteem is something that no one needs, especially when going through incredibly testing times. So when thinking about how to cope with cancer diagnosis, one must consider the self more deeply. Self-esteem is thought to be the way we view our capabilities and whether we can ascribe worth or love to ourselves based on our opinion of ourselves. Cancer can devastate one’s identity, and make one lose the identity of a ‘healthy person’. It impacts bodily changes and may make individuals feel weak. The uncertainty and fear cancer brings also impact security. All of which can impact self-esteem, making it even more important to guard when dealing with cancer diagnosis.

Talk to Other Patients

As mentioned, cancer can feel like a very lonely experience. The diagnosis itself, but also the challenges treatment brings. Most people around you cannot imagine or understand how it affects you, on the many levels that it does. So talking to others who are having the same experience can help you to feel understood and empathised with. By listening and sharing, you can take support from someone who has a better understanding of your difficulties and this can help make you feel less isolated and alone at a time when it is so crucial to feel supported. You may also feel more able to express your deeper feelings and worries with someone who is going through something similar, which is important when coping with cancer.

Fight Stigmas

Depression is very common in those who experience cancer, and a lot of this can be because of the negative attitudes, and discrimination that people have toward cancer, and cancer patients. Stigma can affect psychological adjustment, increase anxiety and depression, and decrease quality of life. Cultural beliefs can impact the experience of cancer if, for example, people believe that cancer cannot be cured and is fatal, or that people with cancer are weak and disabled, or that they cannot return to work, and are incompetent. These narratives can make a person with cancer feel labelled and excluded from society, allowing discrimination against people with cancer. This adds to the difficulties of coping with cancer diagnosis. Raising awareness is one way of fighting to reduce stigma.

Review Your Priorities

If there were ever a time to reconsider your priorities in life, it is when dealing with cancer diagnosis. This is a time when individuals are tested in numerous ways, ways they may never have been before. It can be a time when one might therefore reorient oneself and gain new perspectives about what is important to focus on. This is necessary during the recovery process because by reviewing what needs attention, you can tailor your life to best support recovery and healing. You may gain new understandings and insights that lead to changes you wish to keep, going forward. Your priorities may better align with what you need, so reviewing them becomes necessary.

Find a Positive Meaning

This one relates to the last point in some ways. You are going through a unique experience, one you likely didn’t expect to be going through. As human beings, we need to find meaning in things, this offers a kind of purpose and rationale for our difficulties. This is ever more true when the thing we’re talking about relates to something that can feel so incomprehensible. Something like coping with cancer is made ever harder if one is at a loss because of it. Finding meaning can be positive for recovery because it offers something to make sense of in an experience that can feel completely senseless. Prisoners of war and soldiers have to do this so they can carry on.

Develop Your Own Ways to Cope With Cancer

What is it that resonates with you? What is it that offers you hope, or purpose? What will aid your ability to not just cope, but thrive the best you can? Some people will read books or listen to podcasts, some will want to take time away from their usual routine, some will wish to explore alternative recovery options, some will start blogs to connect with others, others may seek solace in their faith or spiritual beliefs. Whatever it is that helps you, is what you must do to help you in dealing with cancer diagnosis and its effects. This is the time to be unapologetic about what matters to you, and do what works for your recovery.


No one chooses cancer, but unfortunately, some are thrown into this life-changing experience. Suddenly life is altered in a way that was not planned for. But the diagnosis is just the beginning. There is much more to contend with along the way and negative attitudes about cancer and recovery (including our own) are unhelpful and stigmatising. It’s important instead to focus on the things we can all do to help others and ourselves if cancer darkens our door. We must bring in the light. This means educating ourselves, raising awareness, and being supportive of those who may be coping with cancer. If that person is you, then you must do what you need, including taking all the support you can, to help you navigate the many challenging parts of this experience.

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How to Cope With Cancer Diagnosis
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Rehanna Kauser Private Therapist
About The Author
Rehanna Kauser, Psychologist
Rehanna has studied Psychology and Counselling Psychology at four UK universities. She enjoys working with individuals, couples, and families, and also loves learning, and writing. Having always been fascinated with the human mind and behaviour, her interests marry well with her naturally caring disposition, and affinity toward helping people.
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