By Karen Asp
“CANCER” IS ONE word nobody wants to
hear from their doctor. Unfortunately, according to American Cancer Society ( cancer.org)
estimates, more than 1. 6 million new cancer
cases will be diagnosed in 2016. If you’re
among this group, getting the diagnosis is just
the first step. The second is figuring out what
to do next.
That’s not always easy to do. After all,
depending on your diagnosis, cancer can radically change your life. Experts offer the following strategies to help you move forward.
Learn about your disease. There are dozens of cancers, and each one has different
symptoms, treatment options, even survival
rates. Many doctors, however, skip this valuable information and rush right into the how-do-we-get-rid-of-it part.
“They automatically assume you want the
same thing, which often results in little dialogue about what your cancer is all about and
what you want,” says Costco member Jeffrey
Meehan, CEO of Cancer Action Now (cancer
actionnow.com), whose father was diagnosed
with cancer. Yet by learning as much as you
can about your cancer, you can make the most
informed decisions about your treatment plan
(see “Questions to ask” on the next page).
Ask how serious your cancer is. Know-
ing how advanced your cancer is will help you
figure out what you’re up against. That might
then influence when you start treatment,
which will affect your work and family life,
Take notes. You’re going to be digesting
massive amounts of information. So that you
don’t forget important details, write down
everything your doctors tell you. And if questions or concerns arise when you’re not with
your doctor, jot them down too.
Consider bringing a family member or
friend with you to your first few doctor
appointments to help you remember what you
hear. You might even consider starting a jour-
nal to record your experience. Not only does it
give you an outlet for expressing emotions, but
it can also give you a purpose for working
through your cancer.
“Think of this as an experience you can
share with people down the road,” says Costco
member Dr. Theodora Ross, professor of
internal medicine and director of the cancer
genetics program at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who
kept a journal after being diagnosed with melanoma over 10 years ago. It wound up being
the basis of her new book, A Cancer in the
Family (Avery, 2016; not available at Costco).
Investigate treatment options. One type
of cancer can have many different treatment
options, and your doctor may not know all of
TRY TO FOCUS on what you can control, not what you can’t.
Express your feelings. Hiding your feelings can also make
it harder to find good ways to deal with them. There are
many ways to express your feelings. Find one that fits you.
Take care of yourself. Take time to do something you enjoy
Exercise. If you feel up to it, and your doctor agrees that it’s
OK, a mild exercise program can help you feel better.
Reach out to others. Reaching out to friends, family or
support organizations can help you feel less alone.—KA
Steps you can take after diagnosis
Coping with cancer
for your health