12 Common Fears Experienced at Diagnosis

by Jane Ashley

Each person reacts to their cancer diagnosis differently, but fear is always part of every single new patient’s response to their diagnosis. Virtually every cancer patient remembers the date of their diagnosis. We all remember that day – the shock, the disbelief and the fear of the unknown.

You Never Know How Strong

Our experiences might be different, but our fears are similar. Know that you are not alone – we share the shock, the fear and then, the gradual acceptance of cancer. Let’s look at some of the fears we share.

Will I Die?

The myth that cancer is always “terminal” is alive and well today. Fifty years ago that may have been true. In 2017, just under 16 million people in the U.S. are cancer survivors.

The will to live, also known as self-preservation, is innate in all living things. We, human with the ability to comprehend, fear dying. Most of us are willing to endure severe hardships in order to survive. So fear is dying is a normal reaction when diagnosed with a serious disease that could potentially be fatal.

“But science has really come along way and people are not only surviving but thriving! And it will be six years in October” … cllinda

Fear of Leaving Loved Ones Behind

Who wouldn’t worry about leaving their loved ones behind? A husband who is the breadwinner for the family and the mother of small children are entitled to worry about their loved ones should they succumb to cancer. We cannot change our diagnosis, but hopefully, there’s life insurance to help blunt the financial issues if they occur.

The best advice is to cherish your loved ones in the here and now. Be kind with the words you speak – remember that you can’t retract harsh words spoken in anger.

“I was afraid of dying and leaving my Wife alone in the big City to handle all this herself” … GregP

Fear of Chemotherapy

Anyone facing chemotherapy has experienced this fear. We’ve all heard about people throwing up, but those days are past. The new pre-meds are very effective in preventing nausea and vomiting. And if the first nausea medicine doesn’t work, tell your oncologist so that they can adjust your pre-meds. Your medical team wants to help you.

I remember my first day of chemo like it was yesterday (it was almost four years ago). I had visions of being able to feel the chemo in my veins – would it sting or burn? Would I instantly feel nauseated? It turned out that all my fears were unfounded. I didn’t experience any side effects during infusion.

Taking one day at the time is a good mantra to have.

Live One Day At A Time

“I am glad I didn't stick to my "I will never do chemo" ideas or I wouldn't be here today.” … LiveWithCancer

Will I Be Brave Enough?

I must confess that I was guilty of this fear. With a diagnosis of Stage IV rectal cancer, my oncologist told me at my first appointment that my treatment would include having a colostomy.

So, I put that fear on the top shelf of my brain – out of sight for a while so I could attend to the bigger issue of treating my Stage IV cancer and getting to the point that I qualified for potentially curative surgery.

Over the months as I had chemo and two types of radiation, I realized that many others had walked the same steps as I was taking. I realized that I was not alone and that complex surgery is often the only way to a potential cure. In the end, I was grateful that I qualified for a surgery that was potentially curative.

“I had never had any kind of surgery and here I was going to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction all in one fell swoop”…Jouska

Will I Lose My Hair?

Fear of losing our hair is one of the most common fears about chemo. Our hair helps identify us. For many women, our hair is what we are known for – “the gal with long, blonde hair” or “she’s the brunette with the long, wavy hair.”

I hadn’t even thought about losing my hair, but my husband asked my oncologist after she explained the chemo I’d be taking, “Will my wife lose her hair?”

She did her best to reassure us that my hair would only thin.

The stigma over hair loss dates back to when every cancer patient lost their hair. And feelings over our loss of identity remain. But this, too, is temporary. Your hair will grow back along with their eyebrows and eyelashes. You’ll be fine – in the meantime, embrace something new – a cute wig, a baseball cap with a built-in ponytail or a stylish turban.

“I also was devastated when the doctor said that I would lose my hair. I know that most people think that is silly, but it was hard for me to handle. I am here 4-1/2 years later, so it all worked out, and I have hair” … beachbum5817

Survival Statistics Aacr

Other Fears…

Every patient’s circumstances and specifics of diagnosis are different. Other issues that patients worry about include:

Living alone and being able to care for themselves – “Am I going to be a complete invalid? I live by myself -- what am I going to do??” ... BuckeyeShelby

Rare cancer and the chances for a cure – “My 1st fear was the type of cancer I had” … karinelsen

Not seeing your children or grandchildren grow up

Your son or daughter’s wedding coming up – “my doctor and I worked together and I was able to go. Had a great time and even danced at the wedding” ... SandiA

Being disfigured from your treatment

Pain and suffering

Listen to some of the quotes from other WhatNexters. For most of us, it doesn’t wind up being as bad as we imagine.

“Being made helpless was a major fear. I spoke with a home health agency, which gave me peace of mind in case I needed them as a backup (I didn't)” … Ejourneys

“No one is more surprised than I am that now I am a five-year survivor” … Lynne-I-Am

“Death sentence? Yeah, that was almost 6 years ago” ... BuckeyeShelby

Fear of the unknown is inevitable. The diagnosis of cancer is scary. But in the end, most of us will tell someone who has been newly diagnosed that most of the things aren’t nearly as dreadful as you imagine.

Related Articles 

Staying Positive and Keeping The Fear of Recurrence Away

21 More Tips For The Newly Diagnosed

Newly Diagnosed? Top 10 Things You Need to Do Now

9 Things to Know When You Are Diagnosed With Cancer

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