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Coping with Cancer

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, the patient and all of his/her family and friends are affected. A cancer diagnosis can be difficult for everyone involved.

Coping is the way a person deals with a situation. Everyone copes differently, depending on a person's age, life experiences and how he/she deals with new, and often stressful situations. Cancer patients and their loved ones may experience feelings of anger, anxiety, denial, depression, guilt, loss of control and sadness.

Having cancer can affect many aspects of your life. As a result, you may find yourself coping with:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Body image issues (how you feel about yourself)
  • Changes in physical appearance or functions
  • Fear of disability, recurrence or death
  • Changes in relationships

Your best bet is to be honest with those around you. At first you may not be ready to discuss your diagnosis. You may worry about what to tell others and how they will react. Keep in mind that those close to you, especially your children, will sense that something is wrong even if you don't say anything.
 
When sharing information about cancer with your loved ones - including your children:

  • Tell them that you have cancer.
  • Cite your specific type of cancer.
  • Tell children that you will do everything you can to get well.
  • Remind them not everyone dies from cancer.
  • Inform them you cannot "catch cancer."
  • Let them know roles and responsibilities may change.

It is important to know that:

  • Family members, including children, may need to help out or take on more responsibility.
  • The person with cancer may not be able to drive or participate in activities as usual.

It is important to remember to:

  • Keep life as normal as possible.
  • Praise and acknowledge your loved ones' efforts (especially children) for their patience and support.
  • Share and listen to each other's needs.

Facing cancer can actually strengthen relationships. Most often families cope - not despite a cancer diagnosis - but because of a cancer diagnosis.

For help in coping with cancer or talking about cancer with your loved ones, talk with your doctor or nurse.

You may also contact:

  • The Institute's Department of Patient & Family Education to obtain educational materials and videos.
  • The Institute's Department of Patient & Family Support Services to participate in a support group or program. Support programs are available for patients and family -- including some for well children and adolescents.
  • Counseling services to make an appointment with a mental health nurse practitioner.
  • Karmanos Cancer Institute has additional resources and programs available. Refer to "Places, People, and Phone Numbers" for additional services.

Call (800) KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) to contact any of our services.

© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.