It's Cancer, What Next?

Shock, fear, denial, anger, rage, sadness, and disbelief are just some feelings WhatNexters have felt when they were first diagnosed with cancer. There may be a whole cycle of different emotions that you experience.

“I can't believe this. I have never even heard of lymphoma before and no one in my family has ever experienced cancer. I have so many plans and things I want to do. This can't be happening!” -- margarita thumbnail Margarita, Lymphoma, Stage III

Newly Diagnosed

“How am I supposed to react to my father being diagnosed with colon cancer and my fiancée being diagnosed with testicular cancer? I am trying to be strong for the two of them but when is the right time to cry and be angry?” -- susan thumbnail Susan, Testicular Cancer, Stage 0

“Being diagnosed is something you never think you will have to go through until you do. I was 33 years old with an 8-month-old baby. Over a period of about 3 weeks we went from okay there is a lump, to it’s cancer, to wait I think it's spread, to it’s stage IV in my breast, lymph, lung, liver, and bone. I didn't know how to live. Then one day not long after that I realized what I was doing wrong. I needed to live! Not be sad. I have so many wonderful things in this life and this cancer is not going to take me from them.” -- KACes, Breast Cancer, Stage IV

Related Questions: Newly diagnosed - any tips for me and my family?, Just diagnosed - what do I do?

Many WhatNexters say that it is okay to let those emotions run their course, but that it is also helpful to remember that there is hope.

“I can tell you that it [may be] much easier to handle when you get to the point that you know exactly what you have and know exactly what the game plan is to treat it.” -- ticklingcancer thumbnail ticklingcancer, Testicular Cancer, Stage III

For practical information, WhatNexters recommend reading the American Cancer Society’s After Diagnosis Guide for Patients and Families. This guide provides insight into emotional questions that may arise after diagnosis, ways to talk about your diagnosis with others, how to make treatment decisions, the financial aspects of cancer, and how cancer will affect different areas of your everyday life. This guide can be both comforting and informative.

Related Article: Treatments and Side Effects - What to Expect

Below are some coping mechanisms shared by WhatNexters, that have helped them deal with their diagnosis. Overall they agree that you can find hope as your journey progresses. Not all of these ways will work for you, but they may help inspire you to discover what will help you.

Draw from Past Experiences

“I recalled how I got through some other significant event in my own life such as some setback, change in environment, or relationship, etc. Whatever helped me through those events is what helped me now.” -- nancyjac thumbnail nancyjac, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Stage IIIB

Learn About Cancer

“Knowledge is power so I educated myself by going to trusted sites to read up on things. I also reminded myself to take things one day at a time so I wouldn't overwhelm myself.” -- lirasgirl33 Lirasgirl33, Cervical Cancer, Stage IV

Talk to Someone

“I was upset because I didn't know what was going on with my body...This brought me close to a breaking point; I was an emotional wreck. It helped me to talk to someone about what I was going through. My feelings, my concerns, someone who can lend an ear and give you a hug.” -- lirasgirl33 Lirasgirl33, Cervical Cancer, Stage IV

Bring a Family Member or Friend to Your Appointments

“I found that taking someone to appointments was very helpful for me. Doctors give a lot of information and when one is in such an emotional state, it can be hard to absorb and recall it all later. Having another person [there] can be helpful. Another option may be to bring in a notebook so that you can write down the info you receive and read it later. That helped me as well.” -- Valentinegirl, Breast Cancer

Ask Questions

“I asked a lot of questions at my doctor appointments. I have a right to answers that I can understand from my doctors, so I was not afraid to ask them. There is no such thing as a dumb question.” -- peroll thumbnail Peroll, Colorectal Cancer

Related Article: Questions to Ask My Doctor


“I continue to exercises on a regular basis. I take Pilates once a week, walk as much as I can, stretch...I try to focus on what I can do, not on what I cannot do.” -- SueRae1, Kidney Cancer, Stage IV

Related Article: Physical Activity and the Cancer Patient

Focus On What is Best for You

“For the first time in my life, while I was going through my cancer journey, it was about me and doing what was best for me.” -- IKickedIt, Colorectal Cancer

Today, 2 out of 3 people will survive cancer at least 5 years. WhatNexters who have stayed positive, found hope, and survived cancer have celebrated their journey. You can find more personal insights on diagnosis, coping with change, and cancer journeys by watching videos of WhatNexters that have been through this before you. What did you do when you were diagnosed with cancer? What helped you the most before, during, or after treatments?

Related Guides - See all Guides

What to expect 2 Talking to family 3 Talking to children 2

What to Expect

Telling Family and Friends

Telling Your Children

    • LeslieD's Avatar

      After reading the very informative article and the many comments , my question is this!: Should I be thinking that having stage 4 cancer means that I should get my life in order because I'm going to die??

      about 5 years ago
    • cheryncp's Avatar

      Leslie, I don't think it means that at all. Stage 4 only means that the cancer has spread from the original site of the tumor. I think it is a good idea for every adult to get their affairs in order whether they have cancer or not because no one knows when they are going to leave this earth and you don't want to leave a lot of unfinished business for your family to have to deal with. Having said that I would say to spend your energy concentrating on getting well and staying well and living life to the best of your ability.

      about 5 years ago
    • mmcknight's Avatar

      Wow....PaulC.....Just truly do get this.....and it is very uplifting to me to read your article...thank you so much!!

      almost 3 years ago