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Patient to Patient real-world coping tips


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From Patient to Patient: Real-World Coping Tips

Have you recently been diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer? Wondering how to cope? We asked cancer patients, members of the Anderson Network, to share some of their real-world coping tips.

Educate yourself.

“Educate yourself, through your doctor, the Internet, the library, and the other many cancer resources, about your disease and treatment so as to feel more in control and less overwhelmed.”

“Become informed about your type of cancer and disease—learn about the disease, and learn the ‘vocabulary’ of your cancer. In other words, understand the terms so that you can better process what the doctors and health care professionals are saying. This also will help you to frame questions better in order to probe for more information or clarification. You don’t have to try to become an expert overnight, but start checking out Web sites, books, and support groups to begin understanding the disease.”

“Understand the staging of your disease as soon as it is known. This gives you a marker to use in asking questions.”

Ask questions.

“An old Chinese proverb says, ‘To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.’”

“Take someone with you to doctors’ appointments for the express purpose of taking notes and helping you ask questions. Make up your list of questions ahead of time. Don’t always wait to ask the doctor the questions—you can ask nurses and physician assistants some of the questions also. Sometimes they have a little more time to answer, or you can use them to practice a question for the doctor. They can sometimes help you to frame the question.”

Reach out to others.

“The best coping strategy for me was to talk with all my friends!”

“Do use support networks to talk with others with your disease who can share tips and stories about how they survived.”

“Counseling and support groups are important in helping you realize that you are not alone.”

“Make sure that you have a network of friends (besides your family) to talk to and vent.”

“Get involved with organizations that deal with your disease. Giving back works for so many.”

“Don’t try to handle the disease of cancer by yourself, but if you find it hard to talk with someone, try writing your feelings down.”

Stay positive and forward looking.

“Remember that you are still the same person you were before you were diagnosed. You now just happen to have cancer. Don’t look too far into the future; just aim to get through the day. Remember that no disease is 100% fatal. Why shouldn’t you be the survivor?”

Remove yourself from negative people! This is a huge help. As a cancer patient, you have to remain positive and forward looking. Being around negative people and situations will not enhance your healing process.”

“Don’t dwell on others’ stories of people they know that died of your disease or had bad experiences. Don’t dwell on the mortality rates that are published on the Internet.”

“I wrote down all the bad things about breast cancer, how I felt about the negative aspects (scared for my daughters, sad, etc.). Next, I wrote down the good things about breast cancer (many treatment options, etc.) and known truths about breast cancer (many women have survived it, etc.). I then formed an action plan to get me through the experience by determining what I wanted to have and be at the end of the treatment and the action steps to get me there (positive attitude, etc.).”

For more information on this topic or for questions about M. D. Anderson’s treatments, programs, or services, call the M. D. Anderson Information Line at (800) 392-1611 (in the United States) or (713) 792-3245 (in Houston and outside the United States).

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