Your feelings when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer

Anger, numbness, shock, fear, guilt – you might be feeling all, one or none of these. Cancer can give you more ups and downs than a yo-yo. Whatever you’re feeling right now is normal. But there are two things that are important to know: it’s not your fault and you’re not alone.

Dealing with the diagnosis

One minute you’re getting on with life and the next you have an illness that throws everything into question. It’s natural to be angry. You might feel the situation is unfair. You might feel frightened and worried about the impact it will have on your life and those around you.

Whatever situation you’re in – living independently or with family, and whether you’re in education or work – there are people who can help you deal with the things that are most important to you. Right now, this could be how to talk to the people in your life, accessing benefits if you need to take time off work, support with pausing your studies – or simply dealing with your emotions.

Feeling alone

When something this life changing happens to you, it’s normal to feel that no one can really understand what you’re going through. Lots of young people say that a diagnosis can make them feel isolated and alone.

It might be hard to believe but there will be people who get exactly how you’re feeling. Your care team (the group of professionals looking after you) is one, but you’ll also find there is a whole ‘community’ of young people who are connected by a cancer diagnosis. If you are treated on a young person’s ward then you’ll probably find people to talk to who are going through similar stuff.

Feeling low

You may feel low or worried about the future and this is completely natural. There are bound to be times through your treatment when you feel down, and days where you’re feeling more resilient. It’s really important to keep checking in with yourself and recognise when you might need some support – especially if you’re feeling sad most of the time.

Opening up can be tough but it really helps to talk about things, rather than bottling them up. Start by speaking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This could be a friend, someone from your care team or one of these organisations. We’re all here to listen and help, with no judgement.

Tackling big questions

Young people tell us that having cancer can bring up some pretty intense questions that they feel no one can answer. Most young people do get better and things are continuing to improve as dedicated scientists and professionals work out new and better ways to treat cancer. It’s also important to remember that the cancers that affect young people are very different to those affecting older adults.

Everyone’s situation is different so it’s always best to talk about this with your consultant, as they’ll be able to talk you through the next steps and hopefully help to reassure you.

Putting things in perspective

Talking to a close friend, partner or parent, or someone else you feel comfortable with, can really help to make sense of things. Being open with those close to you about how you’re feeling often helps them, as well as you.

It’s understandable to feel pretty overwhelmed at the moment but sometimes, it’s just a case of making a plan, setting some short term goals and taking ‘one day at a time’. Why not enlist someone to support you with this and help keep you focused?

“It can help to have someone else help you make a plan so that someone can help motivate you and stick to it.”

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