You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. You’re shocked. Cancer was not part of your life plan. You’re scared spit-less. You’re overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s coming at you. You don’t know how to tell your family. You’re not sure what to tell your friends. You don’t know if you should be honest with your co-workers. You have no idea what to do next.
And, oh yeah, did I say this already? You’re scared out of your mind.
An acquaintance of mine was just diagnosed with cancer, and as sat across from her, I could see all those feelings and questions playing across her face. I could feel the fear radiating off her. I could sense her instinct to just curl up into a ball. She was a mess.
I’ll tell you what I told her: This is the toughest time, the time between diagnosis and a treatment plan. This is when everything is a question mark. This is when everything is new and foreign. This is when the only thing you can do is wait: wait for the diagnostic test results, wait for the first oncologist appointment, wait for the second opinion appointment, wait to find out what sort of disability or sick time benefits you have, wait to see all the unexpected and sometimes crazy reactions your friends and family will have when you tell them you’ve got cancer.
All the while, you have visions of your cancer running amok through your body as you wait.
Remember: this is the toughest time. I am not saying there aren’t tough times ahead. Surgery, chemo, radiation, immunotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, drug reactions, side effects, bone marrow transplants, insurance hassles—most things about cancer are not easy. But, at least when you’re in treatment, you have goals, you have a plan, you have a medical team organized to do the very best they can to make you well.
Right after diagnosis, you don’t have these things yet. All you have is questions and fear.
During this time, take a few moments each day to close your eyes and breathe – and know that this tough time will pass.