Oncologist: We have the results of the biopsy. It’s cancer.
The conversation continues…
Oncologist: Wah wah wah wah wah
Like the teacher in the Peanuts comic, you hear a voice and you know that there are words being spoken. Yet, it seems almost impossible to distinguish one syllable from the next.
Years later, recalling that moment together with my husband, he shared a completely different version than the one that had been my reality for so long. He filled in pieces of the conversation that I had never heard before. It was like I wasn’t even there.
After dropping the cancer bomb, most likely, your oncologist will give you some preliminary advice and leave you to digest the news.
Once reality has set in and the numbness starts to subside, the questions will come flooding in. Although each situation is unique, there are some suggestions that can be helpful no matter what your circumstances require.
A cancer diagnosis is not usually an immediate medical emergency. There will be more tests and discussions with the oncology team as you explore options.
Try to take things one step at a time. Focus on what is next trying not to let your mind wander too far into the future. I know, easier said than done, but give it your best shot.
Write Down Your Questions
Get yourself a journal. Each time a new question enters your mind, jot it down immediately. You will have so many questions that there are no guarantees you will remember them all when you meet with your oncology team.
Don’t be afraid to ask for information to be repeated or for clarity if you don’t understand. You will hear terms that you’ve probably never heard before. It’s complicated. And, get those questions out from your journal and ask away. You will feel more equipped to face the next steps if you leave with your questions answered.
Use your journal to document what your oncology team tells you. It can be overwhelming. Taking the time to write things down will allow you to recall what was said and provide you with a reference for the future. Years after diagnosis you will still be asked to share details about your health history.
Take Someone With You
Having someone with you to help take notes and remember the details shared in your medical appointments is to your benefit. Often your oncology team will suggest this anyway. They know how much there is to take in, particularly when you may be feeling quite emotional, unwell or fatigued. Even those of you who are fiercely independent will be grateful in the end to have had a second set of ears close by.
That face to face talk with the oncologist is one of the most difficult moments of your life. Your world changes in an instant. Know that in the big picture of your life, it is only a moment. You will get through this phase and move on to the next. Take it one step at a time. Remember to breathe, to be prepared with questions, to ask for answers and to not go it alone.
In the words of Dr. Robert Buckman, “Cancer is a word, not a sentence.”
Contact Soarin’ Cancer Support Services for a complimentary consultation www.cancersupport.ca