Nowadays, cancer is one of the most widespread diseases worldwide, with over 10 million new cases diagnosed every year. Despite the fact that treatment has become more and more effective over recent decades, receiving a cancer diagnosis continues to have a devastating impact on the majority of people. Suffering from a malignant illness is still generally perceived as a death sentence and the grim statistics concerning the annual number of cancer victims are not encouraging at all in this respect. Understandably, finding out that over 600,000 people will have lost their lives to cancer by the end of 2017 is terribly disheartening in itself. However, in the grand scheme of things, the situation is not as dire as it may seem at first glance.
The number of cancer survivors is actually increasing. At the beginning of 2016, over 15.5 million people – both children and adults – with a history of cancer were alive in the United States and the number of survivors is expected to rise by 31% throughout the following decade, which means approximately 20.3 million Americans will have beaten cancer by 2026. While things are undoubtedly looking up for cancer patients, finding yourself struggling to cope with your illness is absolutely natural, even if you are well-aware of such uplifting aspects. You may still have difficulty dealing with the numerous changes your cancer diagnosis brought about and you may still experience conflicting emotions with regard to your prognosis. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the road to acceptance is unique for each cancer fighter and that you, too, can come to terms with your illness.
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We have gathered five simple yet powerful ideas in the hope of making your journey towards acceptance smoother, as well as of helping you cope with your cancer diagnosis more efficiently in the meantime. Regardless of how bleak you may perceive your current situation, chances are there is at least one thing you can do to ease your emotional burden and find the glimmer of hope you need to carry on.
1. Find a Support Group whose Members You Can Relate To
While saying “you are not alone” to a cancer patient has long become cliché, the idea this overused statement conveys is nonetheless true. Reaching out to people who are or have been facing similar hardship as you can work wonders for your emotional wellbeing. Although you already know you are not the only person in the world struggling with cancer, getting in touch with people who know how it is to live with this disease from personal experience will certainly help that sink in.
The key is to find a support group within which you feel comfortable, as you will not be able to share your experience and truly communicate with other members unless you are at ease. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available in this day and age, from cancer-specific support groups to online communities. If you already went to the meetings of a cancer support group but were unsuccessful in fitting in, you should not worry – it was probably just not right for you. Keep looking and you will eventually find people whose stories you can empathize with and who may even end up becoming your close friends.
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2. Learn as Much as You Can about Your Illness
Being preoccupied with your cancer diagnosis may sound ill-advised when you already feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear. In reality, this could not be further from the truth, as looking into the specifics of your disease may ease such negative emotions tremendously. Educating yourself on both cancer in general and your particular illness will not only make you feel more prepared for your next doctor’s appointment, but it will also help you understand essential aspects such as how it develops and what changes it causes in your body.
Contrary to popular belief, being knowledgeable with regard to cancer is not bound to exacerbate your anxiety or worsen your depression. Instead, it is likely to boost your confidence, increase your motivation to keep on fighting, and maybe even renew your hope, as by accumulating information, you will ultimately come to see the bigger picture. Beyond the daunting statistics focusing on the number of deaths and new cases, there are a lot of people who, after receiving a seemingly hopeless diagnosis, eventually beat cancer and then enjoy a completely new life.
3. Reevaluate Your Priorities and Goals
There is no doubt cancer can really turn your life upside down since the very moment you find out about it. With so many sudden changes and crucial decisions to make, not to mention the plethora of emotions which occasionally creep up on you, it does not take long to feel like you are losing control. It may be extremely difficult – if not downright impossible – to accept your new modus vivendi, but determining what is really important to you now is absolutely necessary and it will most likely end up sparing you another headache.
Striving to maintain the same habits you had before your cancer diagnosis is a sure way to accumulate more frustration and will sooner or later render you exhausted. Next time you feel a little better, take a moment to review your priorities and goals, as well as your relationships. Figure out what it is that you truly value at the moment and who are the people you would like to dedicate your time and attention to in the long run. While having to give up some activities or abandon a relationship may feel inconvenient, it will certainly help you regain control over your life in the end.