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Being told that you have cancer is one of the most stressful events you may ever go through. But what exactly ARE the psychological effects of the cancer journey? And most importantly, what practical steps can you take so that your body has the best chance to heal?
What Research Says About Receiving “the News”
Close to four decades ago, Dr. R.G. Hamer examined the brain x-rays and actual tumor locations of over 20,000 cancer patients. He surmised that psychological stress, no matter the cause, can lead directly to DNA damage. This means that the anxiety and depression you feel from a cancer diagnosis can affect how well your body functions on a genetic level. Since then, this theory has been proven by dozens of other studies.
Hearing the news that you have cancer, and especially HOW you receive it, has a very real impact on both your mental and physical health. Here are a few statistics to back this up:
- A German study published in 2016 found that over 80% of all new breast cancer patients displayed some kind of PTSD symptoms between the time they were diagnosed and the time they started treatment.
- As many as 30% of all cancer patients are clinically diagnosed with depression shortly after they receive a diagnosis.
- According to Lissa Rankin, MD, doctors within our modern medical establishment can have a GREAT impact over our healing process simply by how they break the news.
“The literature shows that patients believed to be terminal who are mistakenly informed that they only have a few months to live have died within their given time frame, even when autopsy findings reveal no physiological reasons for the early death,” says Rankin in her book, Mind Over Medicine.
It’s Normal to Feel Isolated When You Have Cancer
Cancer is now a cultural phenomenon − 40% of Americans will be diagnosed at some point in their lives. Still, feeling that “no one understands what I am going through” is very normal.
Even if you are surrounded by caring friends and family, you may still feel like you are all alone on the journey. Unfortunately, research suggests that anxiety and depression that results from social isolation can impair immune function and increase the inflammatory response.
Watch for signs that you are experiencing social isolation as a result of your cancer experience. These may include feeling misunderstood by family and friends and censoring what you say to those who care about you. It can also include feeling as if everyone else has moved on with their lives while you are still “going through” the cancer ordeal, even months and years after it is over.
3 Things You Can Do NOW if You’ve Been Diagnosed With Cancer
Research clearly supports the connection between emotional healing and physical well-being. Here are three of the most important things you can do to start that process:
#1. Take Time for Yourself
As soon as possible after you receive a cancer diagnosis and before you start treatment, schedule an appointment with yourself. This will allow you to process all that is going on and to reflect about the thoughts and feelings you are having NOW.
This appointment doesn’t need to be long; a mere fifteen minutes to half an hour may be all you need. Have a blank journal and a pen handy to write down your thoughts and feelings as they come up, along with any insights you may have.
Then, as you progress on the cancer journey, continue to take some time to “check in” on a weekly or even daily basis. Remember that healing from cancer naturally is not just about what treatments or supplements you take. It is also about taking care of the all the “messy” emotions that will inevitably rise to the surface.
You may feel helpless in the face of the strong negative feelings that may sweep over you. In our culture, we often feel as if we have to “do” something about it. Feelings, however, sometimes just need to be “felt.” As you schedule time to reflect, practice the art of simply “being” with whatever emotion is coming up.
Try to observe the emotion as if someone else were having it. Do not hold on to it nor try to make it go away. Eventually, it WILL go away. That is guaranteed, no matter how intense it may be in the moment!
You may question what the point is of sitting and observing emotions. Surprisingly, however, most experts agree that simply “being with” what is happening is one of the best thing you can do for your overall healing. Through practicing acceptance, you are not allowing the “fight or flight” state − and the release of cortisol that comes with it − to take a hold of you. You can relax and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to do its job of healing your body.
#2. Get the Support that You Need
Just as you need some alone time to reflect, you also need the support of others along the way. Be sure to get that support − in the form of groups, close individuals, or professional services such as a cancer coach − especially if you discover that any of the following PTSD behaviors are happening to you:
- You are beginning to avoid people, places, and situations that remind you of the diagnosis
- You are becoming estranged from your loved ones
- You replay the scene of when you received the diagnosis over and over in your mind
- You are having nightmares about the cancer diagnosis
- You are becoming overwhelmed by feelings of shame, horror, anger, guilt, or fear
- You are having trouble sleeping
- You are having trouble concentrating
- You are displaying self-destructive behavior, like binge eating or excessive drinking
- You can no longer experience positive emotions
- You are becoming excessively moody and irritable
- You are becoming paranoid
Support must also come in the form of caring professionals who have your best interest in mind. If your oncologist or other healthcare professional is anything other than a positive, guiding hand, then you owe it to yourself to find another one. Medical professionals who understand the importance of emotional support for their patients do exist — it is your job to connect with the one that is right for you!
#3. Participate in Activities that Soothe the Stress Response
After being told you have cancer, it is perfectly normal to feel on edge. However, keep in mind that the longer your body is in “fight or flight” mode, the more stress hormones will impair your healing. There are specific mind-body modalities, however, that can help you systematically calm the stress response and “turn on” the hormones of healing.
Some of these modalities include Tapping, meditation, light exercise, being in nature, and laughing (just turn on a funny movie and indulge in a good chuckle).
Remember that a cancer diagnosis is NOT a death sentence. It may be, however, one of the most life-changing events of your life. You CAN actively contribute to your own cancer healing in many ways. One of the most important ways is through your own emotional healing.
Have you been told you have cancer? Please share any tips on what helped (or is helping) you the most in the Comments section below.
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Hearing the news that you have cancer, and especially HOW you receive it, has a very real impact on both your mental and physical health.
Cancer is now a cultural phenomenon − 40% of Americans will be diagnosed at some point in their lives.
Watch for signs that you are experiencing social isolation as a result of your cancer experience.
3 things you can do NOW if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer:
- Take time for yourself
- Get the support that you need
- Participate in activities that soothe the stress response
Remember that a cancer diagnosis is NOT a death sentence.
Randi Chikofsky says
There is more.
1. Never own your diagnosis.
2. Never say “I have cancer” If someone says you are sick deny it and say, “I am a healthy person with a medical condition. Fool your brain. Believe it.
3. Learn to compartmentalize. When you are not dealing with treatment don’t spend your
time dwelling on that fact.
4. Have a mantra. “I am healthy. I am strong. Get out of my body. You don’t belong.
5. Learn all you can about natural cures and they ARE out there.
Thank you so much 💖
Thank you for the encouragement.
I can relate to that. Those are good advices.
At first I was in shock and told myself, geez, I was having a disease that can be lethal.
I did take time and started a journey (diet change, exercise change, sauna and so on).
And after some meditation I realized I don’t want myself be recognized, or labelled by anyone and especially by my own self as a “sick person” when I am up and running, literally and figuratively. I have never run as much, or eaten as healthy as I am now. I have faith and support. So what bad’s to come?
So I switched to define myself as having received a “diagnosis”. I have a paper with words on it, but inside I am healing.
Ruth Heidrich says
The very first thing to do, but are hardly ever told to do, is to change your diet! Most cancers are caused by eating animal foods and oils! Makes all the difference in the world and is more effective than chemo and radiation! First-hand experience here!!
Tammy Willis says
I have brain cancer, but I do not let myself be bullied by the medical establishment. Several times in the past seven years I was told I had a few months to live…but I ignored that. I changed my diet to be ketogenic, I nap when tired, and I continue to travel around the world. I just finished walking the 800 km trek across Spain on the Camino. But most of all, I put my trust in the Divine Physician, and am at peace with whatever comes my way. I feel grateful.
Customer Success says
We love you attitude you have for life. Sending healing vibes your way!
I have had many friends rely on the medical system to cure their cancer. I’m pretty sure that it was the medical treatments that killed them after giving them so much hope that it would cure them. I so believe in trusting in the Lord (the Divine Physician) who will decide our time. Praying to Him in Jesus’s name, for you Tammy. God bless you.
Denis Railey says
You are doing an awesome job & saving lives.
Customer Success says
Thanks for being part of our mission Denis!
What helped me most was taking action. I found sites like this one and learned everything I could about my disease and what I could do about it. Then I handed it all to God and started down a new path in life, implementing a new lifestyle and changing almost all of my previous behaviors.
What behaviors did you change and how?
Julia Arends says
I have never asked why, my but God what is it that I need to learn from this.Gods ways are not ourways and in all things, give thanks .Ihave seen the many positives and have felt growing closer to Him as He has met my every need.Ihave have experienced the power of prayer to deminish fear.Take time to enjoy the small things laugh , do something for others has been helpful to me.
Zoe Wilson says
I have lumps in my thyroid and have been advised to swallow a radioactive tablet to eat them up by an endocrinologist I am very nervous about doing this and am undecided if it would be better to die from what I have then to swallow that tablet
Do you know about this treatment ?
Customer Success says
We don’t have information about this form of treatment at this time. The best advice we can give you is to consult with one of the doctors/experts that we interviewed in our Global Quest Series. Here is a link to get their information: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/experts-info-sheet/
Paul Faulkner says
Stay cool, my wife had Thyroid cancer 5 years ago and following complete removal of her thyroid gland and to ensure there was no other localized cancer spread she was also offered the radioactive pill solution. My wife is a survivor and took the plunge. Total success since literally swallowing the pill confirmed by regular medical checks.
When I received my cancer diagnosis in Nov. of last year, I went to one of the big name cancer hospitals that advertises how a team of doctors looks over your case and makes the best recommendations for your treatment. When I went there, I did have some tests done but then only saw one doctor (given, he is a very nice person) who recommended chemo, radiation, and surgery. Ugh! As a nurse, I have watched too many patients, friends, and family members die from the chemo and radiation, and knew I did not want to go that route. I did let them do surgery (total hysterectomy) on Dec. 30th since it appeared to be confined to that area, and those are parts that I don’t need anymore anyway! I immediately intensified my Bible studying, praying, and claiming my healing, which is what I totally believe in my faith. I am confident that God is not going to let it show up anywhere else! But at the same time, I felt that God was telling me to learn how to take better care of my body – to learn about all the things He has provided for us on this earth to keep us healthy (ie: nutrients in foods, supplements, herbs, etc). So I began my life changing search on the Internet and soon found The Truth About Cancer – A Global Quest that was thankfully soon to be shown. Since then it has been a whirlwind of learning so many things that I never knew about as a nurse (we are just as misled as the doctors!). I have been following a whole foods, plant based diet, exercise daily, get plenty of rest, take several supplements, lost about 30 lbs so far, and feel better than I ever have in my life! I wanted others to have this info so I bought the DVDs of that docu-series and showed it at my church. I can’t stress strongly enough – DON’T BE A VICTIM – and don’t let doctors blindly lead you to treatments. At least not until you’ve had a chance to research all of the options out there so you can make an informed decision. And watch The Truth About Cancer docu-series if there is any way possible! It is getting ready to be shown again soon.
Paul Faulkner says
Keep up the fight and don’t let the medical establishment scare you into Chemo. In my view (and that of many experts) Radiology falls into the same category.
2013 – February, I was diagnosed to have prostate cancer requiring immediate treatment. Still reeling with confusion bordering on disbelief and fear (and with no knowledge of alternatives) I went along with the prescribed treatment. Seven and a half weeks of daily radiology and side effects. The latter being far worse to deal with than the treatment and continues today.
The Truth About Cancer series is brilliant but oh how I wish I knew of this prior to taking the so called ‘NORMAL’ route. Never again. I also have re vised my diet not quantities, but a big increase in foods that I know are good for me and in so doing hope to keep the big ‘C’ at bay.
I wish you every success and any other readers forced to fight like I did.. ,
Maureen – Your case sounds similar to mine – womb cancer following complete hysterectomy. I did have three sessions of radiotherapy which I now regret. I was told it would reduce the chance of recurrence from 14% to 4%, which I now realise, post the shock of diagnosis, meant I already had an 86% of it not recurring anyway! I’m not religious, but put my faith in following a healthy lifestyle – plenty of healing foods and supplements recommended by Ty Bollinger, occasional treats, fresh air and daily gentle exercise so am hoping all will be well.
Jodie Nancarrow says
I have been following you guys for 18 months now. This article is the most powerful i have read. You are legends to share your information and knowledge, kudos to you. I have not been diagnosed with the big C and try to lead as healthy a lifestyle as i can. I do believe having your head right is a major influence. Through your network, i have come across and utilise, tapping, mindfulness, essential oils, growing organic vegetables etc. If the day comes when i hear the 3 words, i will be more than ready. Thank you Jodie
I was diagnosed with right breast cancer in 2014 when my twins were only 4 months old and my daughter 5. I had mastectomy, reconstruction and then they told me I have to have chemotherapy as protection. I did chemo, herceptin and was on tamoxifen. Last year September 2017 I was diagnosed with left breast cancer. I had mastectomy and reconstruction, but at that same time you were doing “The truth about cancer” conference. So I learned from all of you and I refused any further treatment. Two days ago I was diagnosed with cancer in my armpit lymph node just very close to where I had mastectomy 10 months ago. I really don’t know what to do, or how to think straight, I’m so confused. They want to do a full body scan for me to see if there’s anything else. I’m freaking out, I want to know but at the same time I don’t want to know. It’s been 3 days, all I’m doing is cuddling my three kids and crying. Please please please someone HELP ME ❤️
Customer Success says
You have been on quite a journey! The best advice we can give you is to consult with one of the doctors/experts that we interviewed in our Global Quest Series. Here is a link to get their information: https://thetruthaboutcancer.com/experts-info-sheet/
Thank you so much for your reply, I will have a look, really appreciate it xxx
I have a friend who has cancer in one of her kidneys. The other one is very small and doctors will not remove the bad one. I thought she should have a full detox, perhaps a colonic as well and then change her diet although she does eat well. What can I advise her to do as she seems to have no further treatment from medical doctors apart from some pills.
Paul Faulkner says
My suggestion is for you to watch as many episodes of ‘The Truth about Cancer’.
I dearly wish I knew of this prior to my cancer treatment. The answers are there and it is free!!!
The best gift Al Bollinger could give anyone.
Doreen O’Toole says
Jan of 2011, I had came home after getting a colonoscopy, in which the Dr told me I had a growth and would have to find a surgeon immediately while pathology was sent out. I was overwhelmed with the news. As I spent time by myself that first hour. My mind was flooded with the scripture, Philippians 4:6,7 . I told God, I was giving it to Him, because He was much bigger then cancer. It was just to much for me to handle. After all, He created me and knew me before I was born. He knows every, cell, muscle, bone, organ in my body. Only He knows the day and hour He will take me home. I had peace after that, and took the steps I felt He directed me to take. I already had your Book” Cancer Step Outside the Box” I purchased because of a dear friend and her husband that had cancer. I had the tumor removed, was diagnosed with late stage 3, and I had 1 treatment. I opted out of the next 6 months of chemo and radiation. The Drs told me my survival rate was 1-5 yrs with treatment. That was 8 years ago. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future. So I do not fear. Thank You Ty and Charlene! God bless you both for your dedication of love.
Customer Support says
Doreen, this is so amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You’re a blessing to us.
God bless you and your family!!