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:
- frightened and uncertain
- angry and resentful
You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.
Experiencing different feelings is a natural part of coming to terms with cancer. All sorts of feelings are likely to come and go.
You may be more able to cope and make decisions if you have information about your type of cancer and its treatment. Information helps you to know what to expect.
Taking in information can be difficult, especially when you have just been diagnosed. 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.
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 if 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. We have cancer information nurses you can call on our freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.
Specialist nurses can help you if you’re finding it difficult to cope or if you have any problems. They can get you the help you need. They can also give you information about your cancer.
Dietitians can help you with any eating or nutritional problems you have during treatment.
NHS website has a service that tells you about local information and support.
The physical effects you have are mainly due to the treatment. So they will usually 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.
If you had donor stem cells you are at risk of a side effect called graft versus host disease (GvHD). The donor cells start to attack your own tissues, and cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, weight loss and skin rashes. You take immunosuppressants if you develop GvHD to calm down the immune reaction.
Relationships and sex
The physical and emotional changes you have might affect your relationships and sex life. There are things that you can do to manage this.
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
Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help. Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later.