15 STEPS TO TAKE AFTER A CANCER DIAGNOSIS

Updated: Mar 11

Learn what needs to be taken care of before treatment begins


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After you receive the earth-shattering news that you have cancer, you need a second to breathe, try to regain a little composure, and attempt to gather yourself. After the initial shock, there are some things that you will want to get done as soon as possible. And here’s how and why.


1. Make a dentist appointment


This might sound silly, but it’s a serious concern. Dentists and oncologists agree that having dental work while undergoing cancer treatment is not ideal, therefore it should be done prior. Are you still a few months out until your next scheduled appointment? I suggest calling your dentist and telling the receptionist that you were just diagnosed with cancer and have been advised to get a dental checkup/complete all needed dental work before treatment begins. They won’t be shocked by your request as they’ve heard it before and understand.


After a cancer diagnosis, things easily get forgotten, overlooked, and lost. I know, I've been there. So how do you handle it all? Well, the most helpful tool I used was the Cancer Planner. Yep, a planner...specifically for everything cancer. Trust me, you will thank me later. I’m not the only one who thought this was a life saver - read the reviews! #affiliate

2. Get a planner


The earlier you do this, the better. It will help you keep those important dates in one place, house the appointment notes, and even give you an outlet for those wandering thoughts. I feel this one is so important that I’ve written a separate blog post on how it was my number one tool throughout my cancer journey.



3. Verify Primary and Oncologist Communication


Your oncologist may be taking the driver seat in your healthcare but your primary physician will still play an important part, especially down the road. Therefore it's crucial to make sure your oncology team has your explicit permission to share all medical records, updates, and treatments with your primary and vice versa. You will need to contact both your primary and your oncology team to request all new records to be faxed/emailed to the other as they come in during the duration of treatment (you will most likely need to sign a permission form for both providers). Remember, just because you sign the paperwork for the oncology team to share records with your primary, don't assume that gives permission for your primary to share with your oncology team.


This step is important for two main reasons. First, your primary is the one you will continue to go to for any non-cancer related issues (strep throat, broken bones, etc). Therefore, each provider will need to have a full understanding of what is going on with you in order to give proper treatment. Second, your primary is the one you will continue to see after your cancer treatment is over and you're given the all clear (yes, you might occasionally see your oncologist for checkups, but the time periods between visits extends greatly). Certain treatments can cause long term side effects and your doctor needs to be aware of exactly what was given and when in order to keep a close eye on you in the future.


4. Sign up for online records


Most health care providers offer access to your medical records online, which is ingenious in the cancer world. I was literately told "here at the cancer center, you will hurry up to wait" and they were right. We rushed everywhere to get to appointments on time, yet results were slow to come. I referred to it as the waiting game, and it was stressful. By having your records online, it shortens the wait a little. Rather than waiting until your next visit to get the results of the scan, you can read it right when it comes in. To sign up, simply contact your oncology team.


Also, on some platforms you're even able to directly message your oncology team if you have a question or concern.



5. Designate your cancer crew


If you’re like me, you won’t want to ask for help. But you will need it, whether you want to admit it or not. To make asking easier, try sharing the link to the blog post "7 KEY CANCER CREW ROLES" with someone close to you and kindly ask them to help designate the roles to people around you.


6. Inform your employer


If employed, there are several things you will want to discuss upon diagnosis. Some of which are filling out an FMLA, addressing possible schedule changes, insurance adjustments, and whether or not some accommodations will be needed in the work area. Here's a more in depth post all about what needs to be discussed with your employer and coworkers (Join the newsletter to be notified when this post goes live).



7. Streamline your bills


I also suggest trying to get your finances in order for the long haul. The less you have to worry about during treatment, the better. I suggest either setting your bills up on auto pay or calling and asking if they can be due near the same time to make paying bills easier and more streamlined. If you’re able to get things moved around to make it easier for you great, but if not, don’t stress about it. Either pay it early when you pay the other bills or be sure to write the due dates in your notebook mentioned above to help you remember.


8. Read the resource booklet


This one happens after your first oncology appointment, where you will be handed a large binder full of cancer related topics. It might seem overwhelming, and something you don’t really want to do, but it’s important to actually read through it. It has so much helpful information in it, ranging from FAQ’s, what foods to eat/not to eat, to what symptoms to keep an eye out for.


9. Make any necessary adjustments for the long term


Your life is about to change drastically over the next several months, possibly even years. Think of things that will help you and ease the process of treatment. Do you live in an apartment alone in a city far away from home base? You might want to consider moving closer to home until treatment is over. Do you have a Vegas trip planned for the week of your surgery? You'll want to cancel or postpone. Are you needing to tie up any lose ends? Now's the time. Did you commit to volunteering every evening at the homeless shelter? You might want to reconsider or at least give them a heads up. It is important to try to keep a sense of normalcy, so don't kick everything to the curb, yet it's imperative to not over extend yourself as you will be tired and need your rest.



10. Purchase Some Necessities

A list solely devoted to helping those enduring cancer treatment. From finding pill organizers all the way to what shoes to wear to chemo – it’s here. #affiliate

Here's a link to a list of items that I have found were helpful for my own cancer journey. I've created an Amazon list called "CANCER PATIENT MUST HAVES" specific for this purpose.


The more you prepare ahead of time, the less you'll have to do later. Consider purchasing certain items in bulk to avoid having to do it in the depths of treatment. You’ll be glad you did, as treatment carries on, you’re going to become more and more tired. Focus on non-perishables that you will need: Gatorade, water, easy meals, toilet paper are some just to name a few.


Here's a more in depth post to help you think about the items easily forgotten (Join the newsletter to be notified when this post goes live).


11. If you have young children, start planning now


Change can ignite fear and uncertainty in anyone…especially children. A calm and honest conversation (Join the newsletter to be notified when this post goes live) will help set the groundwork of expectations and a gradual introduction to change will help your child adjust without undue stress. Read more about how to ease your child into a new transition of overnight stays here on this post.


You'll also want to inform your childcare so that they can keep an eye out for any red flags in your child's behavior. If red flags do arise, there is help (see this post - Join the newsletter to be notified when this post goes live). If you're have shared custody, inform the other parent and suggest that they start taking the child more than their regularly scheduled times to allow you time to rest.



12. Prepare for hair loss

Such a cute and perfect way to cover your hair loss for winter! It's warm and hair is detachable for adjustment. The pom pom on top is also removable. You can also get it in different colors, which allows you to be the color you always wanted to be ladies (that's what I did lol)! #affiliate

I was so devastated by my hair loss I clung to it as long as possible. It was pretty traumatic to go about it that way honestly, having handfuls fall out in the shower (read more about how hard of a time I had in my book here). Therefore, I strongly suggest cutting your hair ahead of time. I’ve heard many cancer patients say that shaving their head before the hair loss started was actually empowering. It gave them a sense of control over a situation that felt uncontrollable.


Also, if you plan on rocking that bald head, great! You go girl/guy! But, if you plan on trying to look “normal” then I suggest ordering the wig ahead of time. You’ll also want to order a wig cap, because wearing the wig onto a straight bald head is almost unbearable. It’s hot and itchy. The wig cap is almost like a pantyhose type of material that sits under the wig to make it more comfortable.


13. Get your affairs in order


Things that you might not want to think about, but should be handled are: setting up a living trust or will, purchasing life insurance, and looking into applying for disability. Don't tackle these things alone. Ask someone you trust or hire a professional to help with these tasks as they are daunting. You have enough on your plate.



14. Schedule a photo shoot


I wish I had professional photos of me bald. At the time, I was so self-conscious that I hardly let anyone see me without a scarf. I only have one photo of me bald, taken in my father’s bunkhouse with fish tackles hanging in the background. Not quite the backdrop I would have chosen had I known it was the only picture I would have. Yet, I’m so very happy I have it.


Having a professional photo shoot will not only make you feel beautiful and strong during a time that feels like the exact opposite, but it will also give you something to look back on. Something to hold and say “wow, look how far I’ve come” after you’ve kicked cancers ass.


15. Create an Instagram account


You can record the main events of your cancer journey, your feelings, and highlights. I’ve heard cancer patients say that they look back on their Instagram as a record of their journey, something to be proud of. You will also find an amazing support system of people who get it (unlike your current noncancerous friends, as hard as they try). It’s also an easy way to keep family and friends up to date without having to send 20 texts. Here’s a post (Join the newsletter to be notified when this post goes live) on how beneficial creating a cancer Instagram account truly is.



 

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Hi! I'm Jessica

I'm a Stage IV cancer survivor, author, and creative business owner, on a mission to help those who are struggling with the devastation of a cancer diagnosis...

 

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