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Carolyn Hax: After a cancer diagnosis, a scary wait for more news

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi Carolyn: I learned three days ago that I had cancer. (God it’s scary just typing it.) I have a consultation Monday with an oncologist and a surgeon. So far I’ve managed to stay busy at work and not panic now because I don’t know enough yet.

As the consultation approaches, I find it increasingly difficult to control my emotions. How to go from weekend to Monday morning? I feel my heart racing just typing this.

Scared: Oh, uh, I’m sorry. Bad news is bad enough without added suspense.

The way you spend the weekend is to…spend. Seriously. I think we’ve all had an unwelcome practice on this during the worst of the pandemic, and its lessons apply in this context:

First, you determine what you need to do – like work, bills, chores, although streamlining is fine too, if that helps. People prefer different things here, and it’s as personal as it gets.

Then you see how much time you have left to complete after the requirements. Then you fill it with your most reliable distractions and, if possible, inject a dose of optimism to help you stay afloat.

The must-haves for most are art and nature – nothing like putting on a big show or going out – but emotional transcendence is, again, perhaps the most personal thing about us, so I don’t I won’t claim to know what will work for you. Getting out of yourself can also help – giving to others in some way.

Or, it’s going to seem the opposite of soothing, but if you have a mess at home, hit it now so you don’t have to look at it when you’re feeling sickest.

Take a deep breath and give yourself what you need, without apologizing.

No matter what you do, Monday will come. I hope he comes with the best possible news.

· I was here. You get there one task, one day, one hour or even one minute at a time.

· Speak like someone who battled two C-types to a draw: remember this is not a final death sentence. While waiting for action orders, I turned on Motown and cleaned out my fridge, buried myself in Amelia Peabody books and watched the BBC Poirot original series.

· Depending on your treatment, your taste buds might be a little out of whack for a while. So this could be a weekend to indulge in your favorite flavors. Also, if there are places where scent is important to you – mountains, seaside, flowers – take them, if you have the energy. Send love and good thoughts your way, whether you’re doing this or just lying in bed with Netflix all weekend. You can not be wrong.

· I learned (by doing it badly, obviously) the importance of choosing the right people to talk to about it. I’ve had people totally blow up or make thoughtless comments, which made me feel even worse. I wish I had chosen based on their own emotional makeup.

· Visit cancersupportcommunity.org now and take a look at the resources. They are especially helpful for people like you who have just been diagnosed and don’t know where to turn. They also have a 7-day-a-week helpline staffed by real people who will be happy to talk to you and help you this time and beyond. CSC has programs for every stage of diagnosis and treatment, and caters to patients, caregivers and families. Good luck.

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