Coping with a lung cancer diagnosis
I've just been told that I have lung cancer - how will I cope?
Being diagnosed with lung cancer can be a deeply distressing event for you and your family. You may react in different ways and feel different emotions. Uncertainty about what is happening to you and what might happen can be very stressful. Other people with lung cancer have talked about feelings of numbness, disbelief, shock, extreme sadness, anger, guilt, feelings of helplessness and fear.
In the early stages following your diagnosis you may feel as though you can think of little else. Your sleep may be disturbed and you may feel very anxious. You should not worry that you are not coping. These feelings are very normal and not signs of being unable to cope. It is entirely normal to experience a range of strong and sometimes uncontrollable emotions after a diagnosis.
How will I adjust to having lung cancer?
In the days and weeks following diagnosis, as you start to come to terms with the news, it is usual for these reactions to start to settle, although this varies from person to person.. Being able to talk openly about your thoughts and feelings with others such as family, friends, your doctor or lung cancer nurse specialist, can be very helpful.
Your family may also feel worried and uncertain. Talking and sharing your feelings can help. Getting support and help with practical tasks, such as housework and shopping, can reduce the pressure on you and make family feel like they are doing something useful.
What if I feel I can't cope with my diagnosis?
If your feelings and worries are interfering a lot with your day to day life and you are finding it difficult to cope, there are many professionals who can help. It may be worthwhile contacting your doctor or lung cancer nurse specialist, or a professional counsellor.
Having negative thoughts and beliefs about your health can be difficult and in some cases, may lead to depression, anxiety and a loss of self-confidence. One way of dealing with this is to keep yourself involved in activities you enjoy and which give you a sense of well-being.
How do I tell the children?
Talking to your children can be hard. It can be helpful to explain to children that it is normal for them to experience some strong emotions and it is important for them to discuss any worries with you openly. Sometimes taking them to hospital visits and introducing them to staff can help reduce some of their fears. There are a number of very useful books, which have been written specifically for children on the subject of illness in the family. A list of reading materials for children is available from Macmillan Cancer Support (See Useful Contacts).
If your child is of school age it is a good idea to tell their school teacher. This will help with any emotional or behavioural problems. If you have concerns about how your child is reacting, it may be useful to discuss it with your lung cancer nurse specialist or GP. They can make recommendations or suggest referral to a social worker or child psychologist.
How will family members and friends cope with the diagnosis?
Dealing with a diagnosis of lung cancer involves not only coping with your own reactions but also the reactions of others around you.
Therefore it is important to talk openly about your feelings and worries with people who can support you. Remember, whatever worries or anxieties you are experiencing; it is likely that your family and close friends are feeling them too.
You may find there are local support groups or a cancer centre where you can talk to others. There are also online forums and helpline services you can use. Some people find talking to someone else who has been in a similar situation can help.