You are never prepared to hear the words that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a life threatening disease. You and your family may have many feelings after being given a diagnosis and you may not all be at the same place at the same time. Feelings of disbelief, sadness, loss of control, anger, worry or guilt are not unusual and you are encouraged to share your feelings with your family, friends, clergy or a support group. Over time, you will identify a new normal, and will be able to regain control of your life. Being a patient, or the caregiver of a sick patient, will take a large amount of time and energy and can prove to be both mentally and physically draining. You need to prepare yourself and your family so you are ready to face challenges or roadblocks that may lie ahead.
How to effectively maintain a positive attitude in difficult times
Staying upbeat when you, or someone who depends on you, are undergoing treatment can be an ongoing challenge. You may feel overwhelmed, but you need to remember you are not alone. People will assist you so give yourself permission to ask for help. Here are some suggestions that you may find useful.
- Be prepared for the lows. You may have days in which smiling will seem hard to do. Learning to accept a diagnosis often leads to anger, fear, and/or depression, which are natural feelings. Even though dealing with these emotions is not uncommon when dealing with an illness, you do not need to feel as if you have to suffer alone.
- Seek counseling. It is important that you are able to talk about your feelings. How you are mentally, can affect your body. You may be comfortable talking about how you feel, or you may find talking is too painful. Eventually, it is helpful to face your emotions head on. Talking about your feelings with a skilled and caring listener can assist you in building your own coping skills as well as provide you new ways to handle your emotions in a positive way.
- Seek out support systems. Do not be afraid to let others help you and do not be too proud to ask for help! The more people acting on your behalf, the less strain there will be on you. Develop relationships with members of the treatment team including social workers, nurses, physicians and church leaders. Talk with your family and friends about different ways they can help you with your daily activities. You may find it useful to seek out national and/or local non-profit organizations that offer support counseling. There are peer support groups available to assist you and your family members as you process your feelings about the illness. Support organizations are located in the Resource Appendix at the end of this guide.
Educate yourself about the illness. Knowledge is power and being able to understand what you or someone you care about will be going through will help you prepare for the challenges to come. It is okay to ask questions when you do not understand something. You may have questions about the disease process, the proposed treatment plan, the time frame for having testing or treatment and what if anything you are expected to be doing. Being an active participant during your treatment is important to having a successful outcome. Organizations such as Cancer Care, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute are great resources for information regarding your illness.
Challenge yourself to remain positive! Keep a sense of humor and focus on taking it one day at a time. Approach each challenge as if it is simply a steppingstone to the next stage of your life. Your emotional state can serve as the determining factor in setting the tone during recovery.
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