10 Tips for Navigating a Cancer Diagnosis


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January 18, 2023


Hearing the words “you have cancer” is a moment every patient remembers. From that moment on, your life changes. The days and months that follow can be a mix of emotions and questions. Some days feel like a whirlwind. Other days might feel like time is standing still. A new cancer diagnosis can quickly become one of the most difficult seasons of life for patients and their families. 

It can be difficult to know what it’s like unless you’ve been there. At CaringWays®, our team knows how it feels to navigate a new cancer diagnosis. Our entire leadership team has been directly impacted by cancer — personally receiving a diagnosis or walking alongside a loved one through treatment. We know what it’s like to be “in the pit” so to speak. We also know what it’s like to receive support from a friend or family member after a diagnosis

We designed a platform specifically designed to fundraise for cancer treatment and other medical expenses because we care about helping patients find hope during the journey. We want cancer patients to benefit from the same kind of support we received. 

10 Tips to Navigate a Cancer Diagnosis

When our founder and advisor Ronn Hollis was initially diagnosed, his friend and cancer survivor gave him some solid advice and a few tools for handling the journey ahead. Today, Ronn is paying that kindness forward by speaking with people who have recently received a cancer diagnosis. Here, we share his top tips for recently diagnosed individuals. 

1. Honor your story and experience.

No one shares your specific experience with cancer, and there are so many factors that make your story unique. It can be incredibly beneficial to talk with others who’ve been through the journey but don’t minimize your own experience or how you feel about it. Don’t blame yourself for your cancer or try to be upbeat if you’re not. 

Whether you’re the first person in your family to be diagnosed or you’ve seen multiple relatives navigate treatment, it’s important to recognize that everyone’s cancer journey is different. It’s also important to remember that the people in your immediate circle are also impacted by your diagnosis. This is your journey, but you’re not alone in it. 

2. Find your people.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, some people rush in to help you however they can. Others might not know how to handle your diagnosis and will drift away. It can be helpful to realize that this happens and to focus your attention on those who are actively supporting your journey. At CaringWays®, we refer to these people as CareChampions. They are the people who are committed to walking alongside you on the journey

3. Develop a healthy way to feel your feelings.

A life-changing event such as a cancer diagnosis requires you to face new fears and deal with numerous ups and downs as you navigate the complicated medical journey that’s before you. It’s important to understand that these feelings are all normal. Keeping them bottled up can actually make the experience harder. It can be advantageous to create a plan to deal with your emotions. 

For example, Ronn made sure to belly laugh at least twice a day and be moved to tears twice a day during his battle. It helped him to even out his emotional rollercoaster and keep his body in a calm “recovery mode” when he needed it.

4. Name what you can and can’t control.

One of the most difficult parts of the cancer journey is realizing that much of life is outside of your control. Recognizing and naming what you can and can’t control can be a beneficial way to find the mental strength and focus for your journey. 

As CaringWays® patient Kelly Modena explained, “In this journey, there is very little that I can control except for my attitude. I get angry. But my love and positivity definitely outweigh my anger.”

5. Know that it’s OK to ask for support.

“I would want every cancer patient to know it’s OK (and even necessary) to ask for financial support no matter how many resources you have at your disposal,” Ronn shared. “Many times people don’t want to ask because they don’t want to be a burden on others or believe they don’t need help.” The reality is that people care about you and want to provide support during your journey.

We also know that it can be overwhelming to respond to those wanting to lend a hand. One reason we created CaringWays® is that we wanted to provide a way for loved ones to come alongside a patient in a meaningful way without adding the burden of coordinating support

6. Find your mantra.

Fighting cancer takes a lot of energy. It’s easy to feel angry. When Ronn felt his worst, usually 24 hours after a chemo treatment, he would channel his anger into a life-giving motivational mantra that encouraged him to push through the pain. “RALLY RALLY RALLY!” became his battle cry. “Onward and Upward” became the mantra for CaringWays® cancer patient Scott Williams, as he battled a brain cancer diagnosis that would bring many people to their knees in despair.

A personal mantra can be a powerful reminder to find the hope and strength you need to get through each day. 

7. Anticipate changes and play the long game.

Knowing that you are on a roller coaster can be useful when you experience all the ups and downs. You may not know exactly how your treatment journey will unfold. It can be constructive to stay nimble with your expectations while recognizing things can always change. 

The roller coaster of tests, treatment, and physical changes is full of highs and lows. You might ask your healthcare provider what physical changes you may experience or how treatment might impact your daily life.  

8. Consider how your diagnosis might impact your finances.

Many unexpected financial issues can happen after a cancer diagnosis. Will I have to take time away from work? Will my insurance pay for treatments and medication? How much will I have to pay? These are all important questions to ask. But we also recognize they can quickly become overwhelming and add another layer of stress to your treatment.

One of the things we often say at CaringWays® is that patients should be able to “focus on the fight, not the finances.” We’ve made it easy to start a CareFunding campaign to help patients cover the costs of treatment and other health-related expenses. We’ve also created numerous resources to assist you and determine how much financial support a patient might need during treatment.  

9. Focus on the future, but also find ways to give your brain a break.

Your brain can quickly go into a mode of analyzing all of your responsibilities and dreams. You might think to yourself, “Since I have cancer, I think I should do this and not that.” That’s fine in some instances, but it can be debilitating when applied to every decision. You can and should think about their future. Plan things you’d like to do after treatment, make a bucket list, contribute to a charity, or even plan your return to work. 

It’s also valuable to find ways to think about things other than your diagnosis. Don’t get in an endless brain loop that only consists of sentences with the word cancer in them. Flowers still smell nice, a baby’s laugh still brings a smile, art can still inspire, and kind words still have meaning.

10. Find hope in the little things.

Hope is the fuel that keeps you going throughout your journey. It’s important to keep your eyes open for the small glimmers you find along the way. The good news is that there’s inspiration everywhere if you are open to it. It could be a song lyric that catches your attention or even a commercial that stops you in your tracks. 

Once, in a moment of sadness, Ronn was inspired by a message from a commercial for a cancer center far away from home. This provided the spark Ronn needed to get through the day and continue on his journey. 

You Are Not Alone 

At CaringWays®, we’re honored to partner with cancer patients and their families to raise support for their medical expenses and daily needs. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer and is looking to use CareFunding to cover medical expenses, CaringWays® is the best platform to provide tangible help during their time of need. Learn more about becoming their CareChampion.

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