People often find themselves in a state of shock when they are given a cancer diagnosis. GP Alasdair Wright provides a checklist of what to do and consider at this difficult time.
Take a relative or friend
Take a friend when going to see your GP or specialist, both for support and so they can help you remember the details of what has been discussed. It is not easy to remember all of the important information you are given at the time.
Before seeing your doctor
Before seeing your doctor write out a list of questions that you would like answered in relation to your illness and the treatment plan. For example, you might want to know more about the stage of the cancer, prognosis and different treatment options available.
Take a pen and paper to make notes if necessary, or ask your friend/relative to do this for you.
Talk to your family and close friends
Talk about your diagnosis so they understand how you feel and can be there to give you support. They will often be in a state of shock too, so the more information they receive, the better.
When giving information to children, it is best to keep it very simple and remain as calm as possible, but to be honest too. All the information does not have to be given at once, as children will often come back and ask questions at a later stage.
Try to remain positive
Be positive and focus on all the treatment options available. Explore your diagnosis on the Internet and gain as much information as possible before seeing the specialist again, so you can discuss the different treatments available.
Ask your specialist about possible side effects and likely treatment outcomes.
Talk through your proposed treatment plan with your specialist
Talk to your specialist and get as much information as possible about specific dates for starting therapies, their duration, and tests that may be done to see how the treatment is affecting the cancer. Ask how you will be able to tell if the treatment is working and whether there are options to change treatment if necessary.
Write out a timetable for your treatment
Mark off dates on a calendar to help you focus and look positively towards getting through the programme; but also try to live each day as it comes, rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of the illness. Relaxation therapies such as yoga can be useful to help you do this.
Consider 'visualisation' as a way of helping you get through the treatment
You might want to imagine the cancer cells being destroyed as treatment begins. A trained therapist or psychologist can help you learn this technique, or you might just want to try yourself using a CD or after some Internet reading on the topic.
Talk to other people who have cancer
Listen to the stories of other people who have cancer and how they got through it all. Sharing feelings and worries with others who have the same condition can be supportive and give you strength.
Search for your particular diagnosis on the Internet to see if there are any patient chat groups for your particular condition.
Try to keep a structure to your days
Follow set routines to avoid focusing on the cancer all the time: you will need to reserve your emotional energies for the potential treatments ahead.
If possible, keep active to allow your mind to remain fresh. Try to get as much sleep as you can, but keep this to evenings/night time, if possible.
Try to stick to a healthy diet
Follow a healthy diet and, if possible, eat small amounts regularly to give you energy and help your body gain the nutrition it needs to fight the cancer. Your doctor or dietitian may give you more specific advice on your nutritional intake.