63TAB FOUR | TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF patient guide
After you are diagnosed with cancer, you may feel
shock, disbelief, fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness, grief,
depression and anger. Each person may have
some or all of these feelings, and each will handle
them in a different way. Your ﬁrst emotion may be
shock, because no one is ever ready to hear they
have cancer. It is normal for people with cancer
to wonder why it happened to them or to think
life has treated them unfairly. You may not even
believe the diagnosis, especially if you don’t feel
You may be afraid. While some people fear
cancer itself, others may be afraid of cancer treatments and wonder how they will get through them. Fear of pain and
suffering is one of the greatest fears people with cancer and their loved ones have. You may feel guilty. You may ask
yourself if you could have noticed your symptoms earlier, or wonder what you’ve done that may have caused the cancer.
You may wonder if you were exposed to something at home or work that led to cancer. Or you may worry that other
members of your family will also get cancer.
At this time we do not know what causes most cancers. But a few are known to be hereditary, or passed from a parent to
a child. This means if one family member develops it, others in the family may have a higher risk of developing it, too. This
can cause even more concerns for the person newly diagnosed with cancer.
You may feel hopeless or sad if you see cancer as a roadblock to a life full of health and happiness. It is hard to feel
positive and upbeat, especially if the future is uncertain. Just thinking about treatment and the time it will take out of your
life can seem like too much to handle. Feelings of sadness or uncertainty can be made worse by your experiences with
You may have a sense of loss linked to your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Cancer can change your sense
of self - that is, how you think of your body, yourself and your future. Grief is a normal response as you give up your old
ideas of yourself and begin to develop ways to cope with the new, unwanted changes in your life. It may take time for you
to become aware of these losses and changes. It can help if you share your grief with someone close to you. If there is
no one near you that you want to conﬁde in, you might want to see a mental health professional. Your feelings need care
too, just like your physical body.
You might feel angry. While some people may not outwardly express their anger and frustration, others may direct their
anger toward family members, friends or health care professionals. This is usually not done on purpose. If you are only
trying to vent your feelings, let people know that you are not angry with them and know it is not their fault. Also let them
know that you don’t expect them to solve your problems -- you just need them to listen.