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Coping with ALL

Find out what you can do, who can help and about how to cope with a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). 

Your feelings

You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer. You may feel shocked and upset. You might also feel:

  • numb
  • frightened and uncertain
  • confused
  • angry and resentful
  • guilty

You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it is hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Feelings are a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.

Helping yourself

You are more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information also helps you to know what to expect.

Taking in information can be difficult at first. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask and help remember the answers.

Ask your doctors and nurses to explain things again if you need them to.

Remember that you don’t have to sort everything out at once. It might take some time to deal with each issue. Ask for help if you need it.

Treatment causes side effects. These can be mild or more severe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects or if they get worse. They can treat them and help you find ways of coping.

Talking to other people

Talking to your friends and relatives about your cancer can help and support you. But some people are scared of the emotions this could bring up and won’t want to talk. They might worry that you won't be able to cope with your situation.

It can strain relationships if your family or friends don't want to talk. But talking can help increase trust and support between you and them.

Help your family and friends by letting them know you would like to talk about what’s happening and how you feel.

You might find it easier to talk to someone outside your own friends and family.

You can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Relationships and sex

The physical changes you have might affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.

Coping physically

The physical effects you have will be mainly due to treatment. So they will go once the treatment ends. One of the most common problems is tiredness. This can continue for months after treatment.

You will lose your hair, which many people find difficult to cope with. But it will start to grow back within a few weeks of finishing treatment. Remember your hair may not grow back exactly the same as it was before. The colour may be slightly different and it may be straighter or curlier than it was before.

Other physical changes will depend on the treatment you have had. For example, if you had total body radiation your skin will be more sensitive and you will need to protect it from the sun. 

Coping practically

Practical things you and your family might need to cope with include:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting early help with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.

Last reviewed: 
15 May 2015
  • Cancer and its management, Tobias and others. 6th Ed, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010

Information and help

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