Coping with Your Diagnosis
Learning that you have cancer is a life-changing experience. After your leukemia diagnosis, you may feel afraid, anxious, overwhelmed, and uncertain how you will get through the days ahead. Here are some suggestions for coping with your leukemia diagnosis.
Get the facts
Obtain as much information about your type of leukemia as you can to help you make decisions about your care.
It is best to get this information from your doctor. Before your first few appointments, write down all your questions and concerns and bring them with you. For a list of sample questions to ask and how to prepare for your first appointment, visit our Preparing for Your First Appointment webpage.
You might also consider bringing someone with you to these first few appointments to help you remember what you hear since there will be a lot of new information to absorb.
If you have any doubts about your diagnosis or treatment plan, getting a second opinion may help you feel more confident and give you peace of mind that you are on the right path. Visit our Getting a Second Opinion webpage to learn more.
Let friends and family help
Friends and family can drive you to appointments, help with errands and household chores, and prepare meals for you. Although it may be difficult, try to learn to accept their help. This gives those who care about you a sense of contributing during a difficult time.
Also, encourage your family to accept help if they need it. A leukemia diagnosis impacts the entire family, especially the primary caregiver. Getting help with meals or errands from others is essential to preventing caregiver burnout. This list of resources for family and caregivers may be helpful for your loved ones.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can improve and sustain your energy. Eat a healthy diet consisting of a variety of foods and get adequate rest to help you manage stress and fatigue.
Exercising and doing activities you enjoy may also help. Just know your limits, and don't try to push yourself too hard.
For more healthy eating tips and recipes for leukemia patients, watch this Nutrition webinar.
Schedule time for self-care
Research shows that regular self-care practices can reduce the adverse effects of stress, sleep disturbances, and anxiety that comes along with a leukemia diagnosis. Here are some ideas for self-care practices you can do.
- Slow down and find quiet time alone.
- Make time for things that make you feel fulfilled, such as crafting, reading, taking a bath, going for a walk, or baking.
- Start a journal.
- Do some light exercise.
- Get a massage.
- Prioritize sleep.
- Protect your time. This may mean saying "no" when overwhelmed.
Think about your finances
A leukemia diagnosis often comes with many unexpected and unplanned financial expenses. Your treatment may require time away from work or an extended time away from home. Consider the additional costs of medications, medical devices, and traveling for treatment.
Familiarize yourself with your health insurance plan and what is covered and not covered. Health insurance can be very confusing. This guide from Triage Cancer outlines the basics of health insurance plans and terminology.
If you will require time away from work, it is important that you understand your rights as an employee. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid, job-protected leave. This guide from Triage Cancer has more information on how FMLA and other benefits work. Disability insurance may provide you with some income if you are unable to work because of your medical condition. This guide from Triage Cancer has more information on disability insurance and other benefits.
Many medical centers also have oncology social workers on staff who specialize in working with cancer patients and can help with insurance and financial issues.
There are financial assistance programs available to leukemia patients and their families. A list of these organizations is available on our Financial Assistance Resources webpage.
Connect with others for support
It can feel lonely after a leukemia diagnosis. You can find strength in sharing your thoughts and feelings with others who understand what you're going through.
Peer support groups can provide a safe place to share experiences with others. Each group is different. You may need to try several before you find one that works for you. There are also support groups for families, children, and caregivers of people with cancer.
Through our partnership with Imerman Angels, patients and caregivers can connect one-on-one with a mentor who has experienced the same type of cancer. We also offer a free online support community where you can connect with others with your diagnosis.
If your feelings keep you from doing your everyday activities, you may want to consider meeting one-on-one with a trained licensed professional. The below organizations offer a directory of oncology-trained professionals in your area. Your medical center may also provide counseling services.
- Association of Oncology Social Work
- American Psychological Association
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
For more emotional support and community resources, click here.