You just heard those three little words no one wants to hear: “you have cancer.” Your mind is swimming with thoughts, and simultaneously numb. So much information. Heaps of opinions – many conflicting. Where do you focus? Who do you trust? Where do you begin?
Looking back on the beginning of my journey, I was an inch deep and a mile wide on all things cancer. Trying so hard to know everything there was about treatment options, prognosis percentages, clean eating and living, clinical trials, surgery outcomes, side effects … I could go on forever. Luckily, I had an incredible support system that showered me with information they had learned from their own cancer treatment or the treatment of a loved one. That information led to me being here today – something that wasn’t always a given.
To pay my good fortune forward, I’ve identified three buckets I think all those who are newly diagnosed should dig into. If that feels too overwhelming, the most important of them is seeking a second opinion from a research hospital, ideally one that specializes in cancer.
1. Do Your Research
A fresh diagnosis means information overload: appointments, timelines, treatments, a myriad of doctors, and googling galore. It feels like drinking from a fire hose, because it is. But! I cannot stress enough the importance of doing your research. What exactly do I mean? I mean get specific fast.
- Identify your exact cancer and the most effective current treatments. Are there any promising trials? Do a combination of drugs or different doses make a meaningful impact?
- Seek a second opinion from an oncologist or facility that specializes in your cancer - ideally a research hospital. You want a doctor who sees your type of cancer several times a day, not once a week or once a month. They will be more familiar with specifics, treatment options, and have their finger on the pulse of any cutting edge technology or treatment.
- Identify a survivor and reach out. Finding someone who has had your diagnosis and is now healed and thriving is incredibly motivating. They have been where you are and can shed light, love and share information. Search Google, Instagram, Facebook and Do Cancer’s Survivor Story collection to find a survivor.
2. Fuel & Prepare Your Body For The Battle
Your body is about to fight for you really hard, so why not give it a leg up? This will mean something different for everyone, but I’ve included a few ideas to get you started:
- Eat from the earth as much as possible! After a tough diagnosis, it’s tempting to reach for fast, comfort food (like carbs and sugar). Those foods tend to cause inflammation and that is the last thing you want.
- Hydrate. Drink plenty of water! Think an ounce per every pound you weigh, per day. Not only does it help flush out toxins, regulate your blood pressure and keep your joints lubricated, it also improves vein health – making it easier for IV placement when receiving treatment.
- Sleep! Our bodies are only able to heal when we sleep. It’s how our cells repair and regenerate themselves, how we build immunity, and how we fight disease. Allow your body to get lots and lots of deep, uninterrupted sleep. Nap when you can.
- Move. Gentle movement is a GREAT way to reduce your chance of recurrence and to remind your body of all that it is capable of. Walking, yoga, pilates, stretching, light weights, tai chi – these are all great options to engage your muscles, lessen your side effects and speed up recovery time.
- Seek supportive body healing. The benefits of acupuncture, massage, sound baths, infrared sauna, cold plunge and physical therapy are proven to reduce treatment side effects, reduce opioid dependency and promote healing. While the efficacy is not the same for everyone, the benefits are worth the effort. Try a few and see what works for your body. Read our articles and explore our Directory for resources on whole-body healing ideas and modalities.
3. Set Yourself Up for Psychological Success
Right after my diagnosis, someone told me cancer was a mental battle, not a physical one. I thought they were insane, but man, were they right! Set yourself up for mental and emotional success by:
- Surround yourself with positive situations and people. Your mind might be going to some pretty dark places after a diagnosis, that’s why it’s important to remind it of all the wonderful things around you. Help your brain find the joy in life by:
Eliminating upsetting content: movies, songs, books, tv shows, social media, etc.
Stepping away from toxic people and situations. Any easy test for this is “how do I feel after I interact with X?” If the answer is tired, confused, drained, it’s time for a break.
Finding your happiness bubble: Enjoy long walks? Take one every day. Love fresh flowers? Get one every week. Like Christmas songs? Play them in July! Do whatever works for you - no shame!
- Talk to a cancer therapist. I had never been to a therapist until I had cancer and I’m so glad I did. There are therapists who specialize in cancer and counsel people with it everyday. My therapist was a survivor herself. It made such a difference to talk to someone openly and honestly about your fears and frustrations, and get constructive advice to help you cope. You can even find remote therapists who will do virtual sessions, somewhere you can remain anonymous. I cannot recommend therapy enough! It’s a tough path - don’t go it alone.
- Find your mantra and live by it. Your mind is a very powerful thing. Identify what motivates you, who you want to be, or how you want to feel and engrain those words into your thoughts and actions. My friend has a wonderful mantra that I have adopted and repeated throughout the day during treatment. Feel free to borrow it as well:
I am happy. I am healthy. I am loved. I am grateful. I am healed.