Cancer: Words Matter

Ask anyone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer to define the scariest part about this event – other than the absolute terror of wondering if they will survive – and they will likely tell you that it was the feeling of being dropped into another dimension where you don’t speak the language. Cancer is complicated on every level and that includes the terminology. So not only are you dealing with the fact that you have a potentially life-threatening disease, you’re dealing with a whole new language – one that is complicated, more than a little scary, and completely foreign. How do you even begin to navigate this new terrain?

  • Get educated quick. While Googling every sign, symptom, and prognosis is not a good idea (too much information, especially the sometimes unreliable information found online, can do more harm than good when you are already overwhelmed), the internet is a great resource for establishing a new dictionary for yourself. At least you’ll be able to have the basics when it comes to some of the terms you will expect to see and hear often.
  • Ask questions. Ask, ask, ask. The right doctors and treatment team will happily answer all your questions and answer them again – as much as you need them answered. This is your body, your diagnosis, and ultimately your battle. So ask for help as much as you need and want.
  • Solicit the help of a friend or loved one. You’re probably not hearing everything that you need to hear right now. In fact, most of us stop listening as soon as we hear the word cancer. It’s too much to process. And, as a result, we miss notes and the opportunities to ask questions. Call upon your personal support team to come with you to appointments so you have another set of ears and eyes. Fighting cancer is a team battle so establish the team you want around you.

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