Receiving a Diagnosis

Getting the bad news

It’s never a good time to get cancer, but at any stage there are often more options than you realise.

Being diagnosed with cancer is a huge shock and can be a life-changing event. There are many important decisions to be made around treatment and there is usually a sense of urgency about starting a treatment regime. You may feel pressured to make decisions in a very short time-frame.

Compounding this, your family may feel devastated by your diagnosis and not able to give you the objective help and emotional support you need to make important decisions. The diagnosis, fear of what might happen and pressure to make decisions can leave you feeling stressed and anxious.

Finding some inner calm

At diagnosis, most people start off feeling afraid and uncertain of the future. Fear and anxiety can cloud your thoughts and focus your mind in the wrong direction. Before making big decisions you will want to find some clarity and calmness. A good first step is to learn self-help, meditation and relaxation techniques to eliminate the negative impact of fear and the associated stress. Using these techniques will help you develop peace of mind, trust your instincts, regain a feeling of control, make good choices, and to enjoy your life – regardless of the circumstances or outcomes.

It is personally empowering to realise you can transform negative thoughts, feelings and reactions into something positive and beneficial. When you are given ‘bad’ news, there is a physiological response and your anxiety levels may be high. You may feel many emotions such as anger, fear and a sense of helplessness. All these feelings are completely normal in the circumstances, and will eventually pass if you allow them to.

There are some simple relaxation techniques you can use to feel calm in difficult times. These can be as simple as breathing slowly and deeply and bringing your attention to the breath rather than focusing on the worrying thoughts. Our skilled and experienced counsellors can help guide you through meditations, breath awareness practices, and allow you space to work through the many changes a cancer diagnosis brings.

Balanced Information

At diagnosis, the information you receive from your oncologist and other medical professionals may not include details about complementary or integrative cancer therapies.

That’s because the medical system is there to treat your disease. We are very fortunate in Western Australia to have an excellent health system. It may not be perfect, and different people experience better or worse clinical care, however the vast majority of medical professionals really do have your best interests at heart along with the skills and tools to treat cancer.

What many people find missing though, is supportive care, time to listen and reflect, and access to reliable information about self- empowerment strategies. That’s where we come in. We don’t treat your disease, we only seek to enhance your wellness.

It’s important that you continue to inform any treating practitioners about the complementary therapies you are considering. In most cases there’s no reason for any concern about support groups, counselling, meditation, exercise, massage, yoga, tai chi or creative therapies. There may however be potential risks, in particular the risk of interactions, if you dramatically change your diet, or start taking nutritional or herbal supplements. We encourage you to have an open dialogue with everyone in your treatment team in order to safely, responsibly and effectively use the best of medical oncology and complementary therapies.

How Cancer Support WA can help

If you have just been diagnosed with cancer we can help by providing you with some immediate strategies. We have a 24 hour support line you can phone to talk to someone who understands.

Cancer Support WA can help you:

  • process a cancer diagnosis
  • to calmly consider the options
  • communicate effectively with loved ones
  • to strengthen your personal resources and
  •  devise your own cancer wellness plan covering lifestyle, nutrition, meditation, exercise, and complementary therapies, in conjunction with or following medical treatments.

Support

Early on, it is beneficial to identify your ‘wellness team’ which is made up of the people who are going to help and support you through cancer. This may be friends, family members, medical professionals, carers and therapists.

Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help when you need it. They may be ready and willing to help, but it will be up to you to communicate what your needs are.

Attending a cancer support group where participants share their experiences is a good source of companionship and comfort. Support groups are a place to make connections and find the emotional and practical support so important on a cancer journey.

Your Wellness Plan

Formulating a realistic cancer wellness plan will help to relieve some of the anxiety and fear you may be feeling after diagnosis. A wellness plan helps you articulate your values, priorities, goals and give your choices structure and purpose. Your wellness plan can include anything you deem important and might feature your favourite activities, complementary therapies, counselling, creative pursuits or whatever else suits you. You can also include practical items such as childcare and work arrangements. Make a time to meet with our counsellors to create your own wellness plan.