Diagnosed with Cancer? 7 Tips for Calming Anxiety

by PJ Hamel Patient Expert

A cancer diagnosis turns your life upside down. But you only have so much time to flounder; you’re going to be making some of the most important decisions of your life over the next few months. Follow these tips for lessening your emotional stress — and giving yourself the best fighting chance possible. And after you’re finished this slideshow, read part 1, Healthy One Day, Cancer Patient the Next: Seeking (and Finding) Your Best Results, for more tips.

Mature Woman With Hands Clasped Meditating At Home

Get past the panic attack: work on lowering stress levels

Negative emotions can definitely impact your ability to make thoughtful decisions, as well as lead to stress that can suppress your immune system. And you need both mind and body as healthy as can be for the journey you’re about to take. Meditate; take deep, cleansing breaths; exercise, or simply take long walks outdoors. Quieting your mind will help you both physically and mentally.

Sad Mature Woman Suffering From Agoraphobia Looking Out Of Window

Don’t let fear guide your decisions

Many cancers, including breast cancer, can be quite slow-growing. Taking a week or two to do some thorough research around your cancer and its treatment shouldn’t harm your survival chances. Ditto the wait between diagnosis and surgery; and surgery and further treatment. You may wait several weeks (or even a month or two) for the surgeon, radiation oncologist, and oncologist to synch their schedules and get you going. Patience!

Woman shocked during conversation with a friend

Don’t listen to horror stories

“My uncle had chemo. It was the worst experience of his life.” Sharing that kind of information with a newly diagnosed cancer patient is beyond senseless, yet people do it all the time. If someone begins to tell you a cancer story, tell him or her you’re into happy endings at the moment, and if the story doesn’t end happily – you don’t want to hear it.

Attitude Changes Things

Work on acceptance

At first you were scared, but now you’re angry: in fact, you’re furious! You did everything right: exercise, a healthy diet, no smoking, drinking in moderation — yet you still got cancer. 1) It’s not your fault. 2) There’s no turning back. 3) Let go of the anger. 4) Move forward with hope and energy. The only thing you’ll control during this cancer journey is your attitude. Work on it.

Woman weeding a flower bed with a hoe

Stop beating yourself up: your family and friends want to help

You have cancer. And that means a lot may change: your normal routine, your physical capabilities, your job, and the help you’ll need from those around you. Rather than thinking of polite ways to say, “No thanks, I don’t need you to do that,” learn to say, “Yes, I’d love some help.” The people you’re close to want to do something. They can’t cure your cancer; let them bring you dinner, do your laundry, and weed the garden. They’ll feel better; so will you.

Falling Autumn Leaves

Lose control — on purpose

Are you a control freak? Someone whose comfort level is directly tied to how you take charge of any situation? It’s time to loosen the reins. Your treatment schedule, the length of your recovery, the potential side effects — none of this can you influence or change. When a tree stands strong, a superior force can uproot it. But when a leaf lets go and falls, it lands safely. Just for now, be the leaf — not the tree.

Women flexing their muscles at charity race

Play the odds: they’re in your favor

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with very advanced stage IV cancer, chances are excellent you’re going to survive the disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 89.7 percent — with some types as high as 99 percent. Keep those odds in mind as you go through treatment: they’re definitely in your favor.

PJ Hamel
Meet Our Writer
PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.