Knowing the Diagnosis
Getting to know that you have Cancer
A diagnosis of cancer can be a life changing event. A person can go through a lot of emotions and feelings after such a diagnosis is told to them. Everyone reacts differently to these situations but there are some common strands which most people experience. It is important to know that these feelings and emotions are all quite normal and are a natural reaction to a stressful period in their life.
Knowing for the first time that you have cancer can be a difficult situation to deal with. Coming to know of this fact may be in a doctor’s clinic room, on the ward in the hospital or somewhere outside where the information is given by a friend or relative. The first reaction that can be expected in such a situation is a sense of shock and disbelief. A feeling of numbness or a lack of reaction to what has just been said is a very common reaction seen in people. It may take some time before the news sinks in and you understand what has been said. The doctor who gives the information about the diagnosis of cancer often continues to talk about the effects of the cancer and possible treatments but your mind is still trying to react to what has been initially said and in that process you do not pay much attention or are unable to grasp anything that is being said by the doctor. Common questions that come into the mind when such news is given are “How long am I likely to live”, “Is there any treatment for this condition”, “should other people know about it or not”, “am I going to die” etc. It is not uncommon in the Indian setting that the patient is not informed about the diagnosis of cancer and this is explained to the relative or friend that accompanies the patient. This can also be quite nerve wracking for the patient as everyone is talking about them, but they do not know or have not been told about what is happening with them.
After knowing about the diagnosis of a cancer, some people can go into a state of denial where they may partially or totally ignore or avoid the fact about what has been recently said to them. This feeling can be present in patients or their relatives or friends. In most patients, the period of being in denial does not last long and they will understand and accept what is happening with them. Some of them have a continued phase of denial because of which treatment cannot be given to them. Family and friends going into denial about the condition makes it difficult to communicate with them about the situation, to be able to express your feelings and emotions to them and for them to be able to support you as you go through the process of treatment.
Anger is commonly felt in patients once a diagnosis of cancer is made. This usually happens after the period of denial but can happen at any time. The anger can be against members of the family, friends, members of the medical profession, employers or anybody else. Anger is commonly linked to the feeling of “Why Me”, asking the question as to why I should get this condition and not others. Apart from the anger because of the diagnosis of cancer, anger can also happen if the patient perceives that there has been a delay in the diagnosis or some other reason for them to be in this situation. Again, as explained before, these are normal reactions patients experience when going through such situations.
Fear, worry and anxiety are common feelings associated with cancer particularly when the diagnosis is made. It is quite natural to have these fears and worries in a difficult situation like that. Coping with these feelings varies from person to person, but discussing these feelings with friends and family, the treating doctor can go a long way in helping to cope with the situation. Getting to know the full facts of the condition, proposed treatments and possible outcomes can allay some of these fears as being in the dark about what is likely to happen can exacerbate these fears and anxieties in some patients. On the other hand, there may be other patients who cope better with the situation if they know very little about the potential outcome of the treatment.
It takes a little while for the patient to understand what is happening with them and accept the fact. Some patients can feel a sense of guilt about the reasons why the cancer has occurred, or the responsibility and burden being placed on near and dear to support them. This is again a normal feeling that anybody can experience.
Hope is a common feeling that patients have following acceptance of the situation. Understanding the fact that cancer is an illness like any other and in the modern day, treatments are available for all cancers and newer treatments are coming up all the time with a good possibility of control and cure of the condition.