Brandy is an ovarian cancer survivor who wants to use her experience to help others.
In June 2018, I was diagnosed with cancer. The thought of having cancer never really crossed my mind until a large tumor was found in my abdomen during a routine visit to my primary care physician. You never know how you are going to react to something until it happens to you. You can tell yourself you would be brave and you wouldn’t cry, but you never know.
It helps to talk to someone who has been through it, so here’s my advice for people who were just diagnosed with cancer. These are the things I wish I would have known right after I was diagnosed.
1. Avoid Reading About Your Condition Online
For the Love of Betty White, Ignore Dr. Google
The main mistake I made right after my diagnosis was searching my condition on Google, reading whatever results popped up, and immediately feeling like I had just two days to live. When I told those close to me about this, all of them acted like it was a no-brainer to put Dr. Google on permanent mute. I didn’t know to do this, and I paid the price.
The only people you should ask about your medical condition is your medical team. If you don't think you can trust them, ask for a referral to a different doctor. Emotional support is best found in real life from people you know and trust. I'm not saying you can’t reach out to people on social media, but make sure you know them or that they are vetted by someone you know and trust.
Research Your Medical Team Instead
Knowing this now, the only Googling I do in relation to my health is researching my doctors to see their pictures and where they are from. I had two oncologists, and it helped me to see their faces before I actually met them. My medical oncologist just moved back to his home state, so I had a new doctor to replace him. I Googled him so I would have something to talk to him about when I first met him. Seeing someone’s face makes the idea of meeting them a little less scary for me. I’m not sure if this is common, but I was really nervous when I met my first two oncologists.
I don’t recommend Google for support groups or medical advice. Maybe this is too harsh, but I learned my lesson the hard way on this one. Maybe other people are okay with going on the internet to find support groups, but I found them to be too overwhelming.
2. The Shock of Having Cancer Will Go Away
When I first heard the word cancer associated with me, I was completely shocked. I did not expect to ever get cancer. I am a worrier by nature, but this wasn’t something that was on my radar at all. No one in my immediate family has had cancer. It took a while to adjust to the idea that I am a cancer survivor.
The first time I visited my oncologist, it was tough, but it got easier and easier. Now, it is as routine as any other visit to a doctor’s office. The brain is an amazing thing. It experiences a trauma, but it can adjust to it. Now, I am not freaked out every day about having had cancer. Now, being a cancer survivor is just something I am—like being short or being left-handed.
3. You Really Shouldn't Compare Yourself to Others—It's Not Healthy
This is a big one in life. Comparison is the thief of joy during the best of times, but when it comes to something as serious as cancer, please do yourself a favor and be okay where you are at. Do not compare yourself to someone else.
A lot of times, when people tell their cancer stories, they leave out the times they broke down and cried because they want to be seen as strong. This is okay, and I am guilty of this to the extreme. This is why it is important to find someone you trust who has been through it or is going through it. You can talk about the times when you cried or the days when you just didn’t feel good at all.
If you just see the highlights of someone’s story, you are not getting the whole story. Trust me, that person had tough days too. More than likely, they just stayed off of Facebook that day.
4. You Need to Find a Positive Outlet
This was a big one for me. It is hard to search for a positive outlet when you are very tired and don’t feel like leaving the house, but please try. I started attending a church that was a good fit for me, I got involved in an awesome Bible study group there, and I made some new friends along the way.
This wasn’t easy at first because I didn’t really feel like I was at the top of my social game, but everyone was very understanding. For me, I really needed to get out and talk to people face-to-face. Whatever that might look like for you, I really recommend getting out there or staying out there with people who care about you.
However, it is also okay to want to be alone and unplug for a while. I worried at first about not responding right away to people when they sent me messages, but then I realized that the people who really care will be understanding. You don’t need friends who will get angry at you for being unavailable.
5. It's Okay to Cry
I come from a family that does not cry much. The only excuse for crying is if you have broken a bone or if someone has died, and then you are given a short grace period before you need to pull yourself together. So this one was hard for me; when I cry, I see myself as a weak failure. This is not a great thing to admit, but we all have issues, right?
So, do as I say, not as I do on this one. It is okay to let yourself cry. I cried a lot, and it felt good to do so. Crying is a great outlet and is a very healthy thing to do. I am still working on it.
6. This Can Be a Positive Thing If You Let It Be
I learned a lot from my cancer journey. I will say, I am ready to learn some lessons the easy way, and sometimes, I feel like I need a big old break in the bad news department. However, good things did come from this.
I started eating healthier foods and cut out a ton of things that were bad for me. I now weigh less and feel better. I no longer have an excuse to wait to do things in the future. I want to do them now. When I was being wheeled into surgery to have my tumor removed, I thought with regret about all of the writing I always said I was going to do but never did. In the past six years, I had only written Facebook posts and "lowkus" (haikus that are mean) about people who irritated me. Now things are different. Even though my writing isn’t where I want it to be, I am at least trying, which is better than what I was doing before.
I Want to Hear From You
Are you a cancer survivor, or do you know someone who is? What advice would you give someone who was just diagnosed? Let me know in the comments! Let's talk about this!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Brandy McGhee Nelson
Brandy McGhee Nelson (author) from Arkansas on June 28, 2019:
You're welcome and thank you! I hope this helps someone else out who is going through it.
Liz Westwood from UK on June 28, 2019:
Thanks for sharing the lessons you learned from your experience. I have friends who have coped with cancer and what you say echoes what they have said. I wish you good health and here's to the next 5k.