4 Ways to Navigate a Cancer Diagnosis

Few things in life are as difficult as receiving an initial cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, the reality is that one in three people will receive this challenging news at some point in their life. This means that nearly everyone will be impacted by cancer in one way or another eventually. Whether it’s you or a family member struggling with a new cancer diagnosis, there are things you can do to begin to navigate the journey toward recovery or acceptance. If you or someone you love has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, lymphoma, liver cancer, or any other type of cancer, here are a few things you can do to get through your cancer journey.

1. Get your paperwork and financials in order.

Learning you or someone you love has cancer is stressful enough. Adding financial stress over mounting medical expenses can make things even more challenging. If you or someone you love has recently had a medical diagnosis like cervical cancer or colorectal cancer, you’ll want to take a look at your healthcare coverage and finances.

Finding the best health insurance on a site like is a great place to start when it comes to treatment options and navigating a diagnosis of cancer. The first thing to do is give potential insurance companies a call and explain your diagnosis and the treatment options your doctors are recommending. No two insurance companies or plans are exactly alike, so you’ll want to be clear on what is covered for different types of cancer. If you live in the United States, insurance companies will be much different from insurance providers in another country, like Australia. If you aren’t sure about your health coverage or don’t have a health care plan at all, start by talking to your doctor and hospital’s financial office. The human services agencies in your country may be able to help, too. In the United States, you may be able to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and can at least learn about options for a health insurance plan to cover you.

For some people, the financial stressors of paying for chemotherapy, radiation, and alternative treatments can seem overwhelming. Regardless of your cancer type and whether you have good insurance coverage or not, you’ll want to focus on your overall quality of life during these challenging times. This will start with a great support system.

2. Coordinate a support system.

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If you take a look around you, you’ll see your natural support system. For most people, this group is made up of the family and friends as worried as you about your prognosis. Try having open conversations with these people about your needs, symptoms of depression, symptoms of anxiety, and how they can best help you to navigate your recovery and progress.

Many cancer patients find it helpful to add to their natural support system through the use of a licensed therapist who can work with them with individual CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) sessions aimed at managing anxiety symptoms. The reality is that while family can be well-intentioned, CBT for anxiety and depression may offer you tools you wouldn’t otherwise have to get through sharing the stress of your illness with loves ones. You don’t need to be experiencing a depressive disorder or anxiety symptoms to make an appointment with a therapist to talk about how your health problems are impacting your mental health. Instead, CBT therapists are trained to work with you in whatever capacity you need to get through your recovery with as much peace of mind as possible.

3. Stay open-minded about treatment options and second opinions.

If you’re not comfortable with your oncologist, don’t like your prognosis or treatment options, or want to learn more about clinical trials for specific types of cancer, it’s a good idea to have an open mind when it comes to alternative medicine that might help you with not only reaching remission but the side effects of traditional treatments. If you’ve recently received a diagnosis and aren’t sure what steps to take next with your treatment, doing some research into your specific type of cancer and talking to other cancer patients about their successes is a great idea.

4. Make time for life away from cancer.

While you can’t be your own therapist, the best way to take care of your mental health and, in some cases, physical wellness, after learning you have cancer is to remember that there’s life beyond cancer, too. Take the time to focus on the things and people you love between treatments and doctor’s office visits. Self-care is important, especially in the most dire of times. Make time for doing the things you enjoy on the days you feel well. These restful times will give you the energy you need to focus on recovery.

At the end of the day, how you navigate your cancer diagnosis is a deeply personal a decision, as personal as the type of cancer you have and how it impacts you or someone you love. By doing what you can to learn as much as possible about your specific cancer, getting your finances in order, and building a great support system that can help you through the most challenging days, you’ll put yourself in a better position for a successful recovery regardless of the type of therapy or cancer treatments you choose. Make time for yourself and the people who support you as you face the road ahead. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for you or the person you love who’s been diagnosed with cancer.


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