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Coping

Find out what you can do, who can help and about how to cope with a diagnosis of bone cancer.

This page is about cancer that starts in your bone (primary bone cancer).

If your cancer has spread into bone from another part of the body, it is called secondary bone cancer.

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.

It can be very difficult coping with a diagnosis of cancer, both practically and emotionally. At first, you are likely to feel very upset, frightened and confused. Or that things are out of your control.

Most people who have surgery for bone cancer have limb salvage procedures. But there are some people who will require amputation. The loss of a limb can be very difficult to cope with. Some people have emotions of grief and bereavement. It is important to remember that coming to terms with your feelings about having an amputation may need as much attention as the practical changes.

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.

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 can affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.

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.

Coping with school, college or work

Talking about cancer

You may be worried about telling everyone at school or college. Of course, who you tell and how much you tell them is up to you. But you will almost certainly find that everyone is very supportive and willing to help in any way they can. If the thought of telling everyone is too much for you, a teacher or tutor you trust can tell the class for you. Then when you come back you won’t have to go over what has happened to you again and again.

Coursework and exams

Colleges and even exam boards are generally very helpful when students have health related problems. Talk to your favourite teacher or personal tutor as soon as you can. They will be able to suggest ways that you can try to keep up. Or it may be more sensible to take a year out. Your place will be kept for you until the following year.

If you are unwell when you are taking exams, your teacher or tutor can let the exam board know and they will make allowances for this. You should have the option of delaying taking your exams until you are well enough. That may be the better option, rather than struggling through and not doing as well as you think you should.

Work

Treatment for bone cancer may mean that you are not able to work for a few months or a year or so.

Disability Discrimination Act

Remember – schools, colleges and employers are not allowed to discriminate against anyone under the Disability Discrimination Act. This legislation includes people with cancer. They must do all that they can to support you in your work or studies.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.