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A New Normal: Adjusting to a Cancer Diagnosis

A New Normal: Adjusting to a Cancer Diagnosis

Finding out you have cancer affects every part of your life. You may also have many questions about what to expect as you begin treatment.

The good news is that you don't have to face your cancer journey alone. Your doctor and healthcare team will be there to guide you as you adjust to your diagnosis and navigate the treatment process. By communicating openly with your doctor and leaning on your support system, you can help ease anxiety and focus on getting healthy.

Ask All The Questions

After being diagnosed, you will probably have many questions. As you think of them, write them down so you can have a list to bring with you to your appointments. Asking questions is the best way to better understand your diagnosis, what's happening with your body and what you can expect during and after treatment.

Here are some sample questions you might want to ask:


  • What type of cancer do I have?
  • What stage is my cancer? Has it spread to other areas of my body?
  • Do I need additional tests before starting treatment?
  • How serious is my cancer, and what is the prognosis?
  • How can I find out about clinical trials or studies for my type and stage of cancer?
  • Can you help me find a doctor to give a second opinion on the best treatment plan?


  • What treatment options do I have?
  • What are the risks and benefits of each option?
  • What option do you recommend, and why do you feel it is best for me?
  • What are my chances for recovery with this treatment?
  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • How is the treatment given?
  • How long will each treatment session last, and how many sessions will I have?
  • What are the side effects of the treatment?
  • Does the treatment have any long-term effects?

Don't Go At It Alone

While you might feel isolated after finding out you have cancer, seeking support from loved ones and others who have gone through similar situations can help ease your anxiety.

"Having a good support system is very important," said Esther Tan, MD, medical oncologist at the Lewis Hall Singletary Oncology Center. "I recommend bringing a friend or family member to appointments. He or she can offer support while helping you remember all the information you receive. It can also be very helpful to join a support group where you can talk to people who have gone through a similar diagnosis and treatment plan."

Talking to your friends and loved ones about how you are feeling can also help you process your emotions. But if you experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness that don't go away after a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor.

Take Good Care

While cancer treatment can have many unwanted side effects, taking good care of yourself physically can help minimize these effects and improve your daily life.

“It’s very important to stay active during treatment,” Dr. Tan said. “Exercise has been proven to help with the fatigue a patient may experience during treatment. It does not have to be strenuous. It can be as simple as walking for 20 minutes a day or going for a bike ride.”

Eating a nutritious diet can also help you build strength, keep up your energy and lower your risk of infection. However, this might mean eating different things than you normally would, as your body’s nutrition needs change during treatment. Follow your doctor’s advice on the best foods to eat.

Life After Treatment

After your treatment has ended, it’s normal to experience feelings of fear or sadness. Talking about how you’re feeling with a loved one or a counselor can help you let go. Taking care of yourself physically can also help you as you start this new chapter of your life post-treatment.

“Exercise, meditation and talking about your feelings with people in your support system can all help with mental health,” said Dr. Tan. “Eating healthy and sleeping well are also important habits.”

You may have questions for your doctor, such as:

  • How long will it take for me to feel more like myself again?
  • What is the chance that my cancer will come back?
  • What type of follow-up care do I need?
  • What tests do I need, and how often will I have them?
  • What can I do to stay as healthy as possible?

By focusing on taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally, you can begin to move forward after treatment.

To learn about Archbold’s comprehensive cancer care, visit