Coping and support when you have gallbladder cancer

Coping with gallbladder cancer can be difficult. At first, you are likely to feel very upset, frightened and confused. You may wonder how you will cope with practical and emotional worries. 

You may find that you have a number of different feelings. It can be particularly difficult to cope with a diagnosis of advanced gallbladder cancer. 

If you have advanced cancer you will need to work out your priorities. Think about how you want to spend your time - what is important to you and what is not.

Some of your future plans may no longer be realistic but you do not have to abandon them all. You may be able to adapt some. And you may get round to doing something you have always wanted to do, but were not able to make time for.

Your feelings

You might have a number of different feelings when you're told you have cancer.

You may feel a range of powerful emotions at first such as feeling shocked, upset and find it difficult to take in anything else that is being said to you. Other emotions include feeling:

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

You may have some or all of these feelings. Or you might feel totally different. You may feel them a few at a time or altogether, leaving you feeling exhausted.

Everyone reacts in their own way. Sometimes it's hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all. You need to do what’s right for you to help you cope.

Helping yourself

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 or given sad news about your outlook. Make a list of questions before you see your doctor. Take someone with you to remind you what you want to ask. They can also help you to remember the information that was given. Getting a lot of new information can feel overwhelming.

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

You might feel that you don’t want to know much information straight away. Tell your doctor or nurse. You will always be able to ask for more information when you feel ready.

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.

You can also do practical things such as:

  • making lists to help you
  • having a calendar with all appointments
  • having goals
  • planning enjoyable things around weeks that might be trickier than others

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 or be afraid they will say the wrong thing.

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 other than your own friends and family. We have cancer information nurses you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Or you may prefer to see a counsellor.

You can chat with other people affected by cancer in our online forum. 

Specialist nurses

Specialist nurses can help 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.

Specialist nurses are usually your first point of call if you have any questions or concerns. Make sure you know who your specialist nurse is and have their telephone number.

Support groups

You may find it helpful to go to a support group to talk to other people affected by cancer.

Physical problems

Gallbladder cancer and its treatment may cause physical changes to your body. Your doctor and specialist nurse can help you manage these changes. They can refer you to see other health professionals such as:

  • dietitians
  • symptom control team
  • physiotherapists

You may also have to cope with feeling very tired and lacking in energy a lot of the time. Tiredness may be worse during and after treatment, or if your cancer is advanced.

These changes can be very difficult to cope with and may affect the way you feel about yourself. Such changes can affect your self esteem and the way you relate to close family and friends.

It is important that you feel as well as you possibly can. If you have symptoms let your doctor or nurse know. They can work with you to help control your cancer symptoms and improve your physical well being.

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.

Coping practically

You and your family might need to cope with practical things including:

  • money matters
  • financial support, such as benefits, sick pay and grants
  • work issues
  • childcare
  • Blue Badge applications
  • help with travel costs
  • changes to your house

Talk to your doctor or specialist nurse to find out who can help.  You might be able to get some benefits for yourself and the person caring for you. You might also be able to get grants for heating costs, holidays and other household expenses related to your illness.

Getting help early with these things can mean that they don’t become a big issue later. It may be helpful to see a social worker. Many hospital cancer departments have a social worker available for patients.

Support at home for you and your family

You might need care and support at home due to cancer or its treatment. There is practical and emotional support available to you. 

GP and nursing support

Your GP manages your healthcare when you are at home. They can help with any medical problems that come up. They can also make referrals to a community service for you. The availability of the different community services may vary, depending on where you live.

District nurses

These nurses work in different places in your local area and may visit you in your home. They can:

  • give medicines or injections
  • check temperature, blood pressure and breathing
  • clean and dress wounds
  • monitor or set up drips
  • give emotional support
  • teach basic caring skills to family members where needed
  • get special equipment, such as commodes or bed pans

Community specialist palliative care nurses

Community specialist palliative care nurses include Macmillan nurses and hospice nurses. They specialise in symptom management such as pain control, sickness, and other cancer symptoms. They also give emotional support to you and your carers.

Social workers

Social workers can help to support you with your situation at home. They can arrange:

  • home helps to help with shopping or housework
  • home care assistants for washing and dressing
  • meals on wheels
  • respite care

Your social worker can also help with money matters by checking you get all the benefits you are entitled to. Or they can advise you about charity grants for things like extra heating costs or special diets.

Contact a social worker yourself by getting in touch with your local social services office. Or ask your hospital nurse or your GP to refer you.

Local support services

There may be other support services in your local area. Services vary from place to place.

Sometimes local voluntary groups offer sitting services. Someone comes to stay with you while your relative goes out.

Good neighbour schemes offer befriending or practical help with shopping or transport.

Local cancer support groups often offer practical help. And they are a good source of information about services in your area. Ask your doctor or nurse about local groups.

Towards the end of life

It’s natural to want to find out what is likely to happen in the last few weeks or days of life.

You might need to choose where you want to be looked after and who you want to care for you.

You can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses if you have questions or want to talk about coping with advanced cancer. Call free on 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • The Palliative Care Handbook A Good Practice Guide (9th Edition)
    Wessex Palliative Physicians, 2019

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical and Cancer Nursing Procedures (10th edition, online)
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton 
    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

Last reviewed: 
12 Oct 2023
Next review due: 
12 Oct 2026

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