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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


We constantly experience emotions. The range and the depth of emotions is likely to change in the new normal that exists after a diagnosis - starting with the range of emotions that are likely to surface on diagnosis. Different emotions are usually associated with different diseases and disease stages . Emotions such as fear and anxiety may be triggered by contact with the health care system. It helps to be aware so you can watch for negative emotions and lessen their impact. 

Watch for depression. Depression is common. Left untreated, depression can interfere with taking meds or following through on your therapy. Learn the symptoms such as feeling like you're stuck at the bottom of an emotional roller coaster. Know your options.

Do what you can to avoid stress. Some stress is unavoidable such as stress when you're concerned about finances, the stress that may come from waiting for test results or that accompanies holidays. There are techniques that help. 

Anxiety can result from a batch of triggers including fear of a treatment or death or because of an anniversary. A reasonable amount of anxiety can be used as a motivation to get the best medical care. It can also be used to get your finances and estate affairs in order which in turn helps relieve unnecessary stress. If anxiety interferes with your functioning, there are both self-help and medical treatments available. Panic attacks are also treatable.

The feeling of loss/grief for loss of what was is common. There are techniques for coping with this natural feeling.

If you learn about the potential side and after effects of a treatment or drug, there is less likelihood of dismay when predictable side effects occur.

A positive mental attitude can help extend the calm periods and minimize the difficult emotional turns. It can also help turn the experience into a positive life-changing one.

Find your strength in whatever helped you deal with life's issues before your diagnosis. A major source of strength for many people is religion and/or spirituality. To help you cope, there are self help techniques, professionals, other people going through what you're going through, your team of family and friends, and drugs and treatments (including what we refer to as complementary medicine). There is a power that comes from a connection with other people.

Humor can be a big help. So can diet, exercise, looking your best, living with a pet, volunteering, and forgiveness.

Express your emotions. It's good for you. If you don't do it for you, do it for the people closest to you. They need you to do that.

Keep in mind that there is no reason for shame or blame about your health condition.

Support groups aren't just for support - or for women. They can also be a major source of the kind of practical information doctors and nurses don't have the time to talk about.

If feelings of suicide surface, get help. Suicide is a permanent solution for what could be a temporary situation.

A Positive Mental Attitude

A positive attitude will not only help you feel better, it generally leads to better medical outcomes - if for no other reason, because you are likely to feel empowered to get the medical care you need and comply with treatment and drug regimens. This doesn't mean that you have to be a Pollyanna type and stay positive all the time no matter what's happening. It also doesn't mean you can't complain. We're all human.

A positive attitude can be learned.

Keeping a gratitude journal may help.

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A Positive Attitude


In general, depression is a sadness that continues day after day. There is also a list of symptoms to watch for, such as lack of interest in things that were historically of interest to you.

Depression can have a significant negative impact on quality of life, on the quality of your medical care, and whether you take a necessary treatment or adhere to a drug and/or nutrition regimen.

Depression does not have to be a part of life after a diagnosis. It can be treated in most cases, even when it co-occurs with other health conditions. There are even techniques for dealing with holiday and post-holiday depression.

NOTE: If you are an employee, depression can be used as a disabling condition to help you claim disability income when you want it.

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Related Articles

Choosing A Therapist

Panic Attack

A Panic Attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that lasts for a short period of time. It generally comes with no warning or obvious trigger. Steps can be taken to minimize the effects of a panic attack.

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Panic Attack


Forgiveness is showing compassion for a person who wronged you and letting go of the desire for revenge.

Studies show that forgiveness can improve your psychological and physical health.

Ellis Cose, author of Bone To Pick, a book on forgiveness, suggests three steps to achieve forgiveness:

  • Get perspective on your pain and anger. Just because someone caused you harm or injury does not mean that you are a victim.
  • Attempt to empathize with the person who hurt you. Try to put yourself in his or her shoes and try to understand what made him or her commit the act. This is not justifying the act.
  • Stop thinking of forgiveness in absolute terms. Your compassion may not inspire gratitude form the person who hurt you followed by a reconciliation and a state of peace. What you will get is a release of your intense anger which allows you to move on.

Test Results: Coping With Waiting

Medical testing is a part of modern medicine. Tests help determine a diagnosis, progression of a disease and success or failure of treatment. Waiting for test results can be awful. For some people, the anxiety is worse than physical pain.

There are time tested ideas that have worked for people to make the wait easier. A few examples of the practical ideas discussed in the article noted in "To Learn More" are:

  • Let your doctor know you are anxious about the results and ask that you get them as soon as possible.
  • Ask that you be informed of the test results before a weekend or that you be given the results on a certain date.
  • Keep yourself busy, especially on weekends.
  • Keep a balance in your life.

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A belief in a higher power can be very comforting. Spirituality comes in many forms, including religion.

If you have already found your spirituality, encourage it. If you haven't stay open.

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As someone who has been diagnosed with a serious health condition, it's unlikely that you need anyone explaining what stress is to you. (We do explain it "just in case.")

Stress can be injurious to your health and can show up in a variety of ways.

There are a wide variety of techniques available for stress management including communicating with other people, deep breathing, exercise, diet, writing, and getting rest and relaxation. If you're already familiar with stress management techniques, the article cited in "To Learn More" may be a good refresher course, or may even teach you something new.

There are also useful techniques for dealing with holiday and post holiday depression, and waiting for test results


Grief is a natural reaction to bad news about our health. It is not an illness or one time event. Instead, grief is a process of internalizing the new catastrophic information. It is a major and legitimate feeling.

Grief is natural. It shows up in different and personal ways for each of us. Signs of grief can be physical or emotional or both. They can also be painful and disturbing. Although you may not expect it, grief can be healthy. It gives you the time needed to absorb the new reality in your own pace. A time to process emotions and make the needed adjustment. It is a "time off" that can be used to build the strength you need, to be able to face and embrace the new reality.

How does a person cope with such an overwhelming situation? The truth is that there is no one good answer to this profound question. But there are some tips that seem to help. Choose the ones that are right for you, the ones that you feel are good and helpful.

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Emotional Suppport Systems

Experience indicates that sharing your emotions helps. Keeping your emotions in hurts.

Take advantage of your support systems (each of which are discussed in the documents in "To Learn More")..

  • Friends and family want to help. They're part of your health care team. Talking with them about your fears gets out the anxiety. Just being together is supportive. Consider doing activities together - including those "treats" that you don't usually do. 
  • Make contact with another person going through what you are going through, or who has gone through it recently. (Someone who went through it years ago likely had a different experience thanks to constant medical advances). You can do this in person, on the telephone or on line. Your doctor or local disease specific nonprofit can help make a connection.
  • Support groups are shown to help a great deal - even for men. The group can be a formal one or even an informal one self help group that you create with a few other people. Even if you only join a group for the practical information people who are in a similar situation can share, you can use the group to help you get through rough patches. Sometimes just being with other people who are going through a similar experience helps. Support groups are available in person, on the telephone and even online.
  • Professionals such as a social worker, psychologist and psychiatrist are there to help

If you're working, consider seeing a therapist in case you want to stop and go onto disability. Depression and other emotional conditions can in and of themselves be considered to be a disability.


Volunteering offers many benefits to you, the volunteer, as well as those being served.

Key to making the most of contributing your time, effort, and skills is finding the right volunteer opportunity. With the advent of the Internet, this is easier than ever: in fact, you can even volunteer on the Internet without leaving your home by being a "virtual volunteer."

Volunteering doesn't have to be formal, such as for an organization or a formalized activity. While we don't advise it, you could probably just show up at just about any non-profit and they'll give you something to do that would help. Or, perhaps, you could just help a friend, neighbor or fellow support group member who has a need.

Before you begin to volunteer, understand the rules about any government or private benefits you receive to make sure that volunteering doesn't affect them.

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There are numerous benefits to having a pet -- including that it may be good for your physical and emotional health.  If you don't own a pet, consider getting one.

While dogs and cats may be the first pets to come to mind, there are all kinds of pets with different characteristics to suit your needs and lifestyle.  One of the main considerations is to protect your health (which is easy to do if you follow standard guidelines.)

Before buying a pet, it is advisable to think through the pros and cons, including thinking about how the responsibility for caring for a pet will be carried on if you can't take care of it yourself. 

Also, learn how to live with a pet so you aren't infected by it, and your health condition doesn't cause harm.

Traveling with a pet can be easy if you make proper preparations.

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Pets 101

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can help you relax and deal better with stress, fear and anxiety. For instance, consider Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques. For more information, see the documents in "To Learn More."

Just Diagnosed

A diagnosis predictably brings emotional upheaval.

  • A diagnosis can make you feel very alone and distanced from your friends and family.
  • Strong emotions are stirred up such as fear, anger, denial, frustration, guilt, withdrawal, loss/grief at the loss of good health, and depression. Depression may be so severe it can be difficult to function.
  • Each of these emotions are likely to show-up in no predictable order or time, especially hopelessness and tears.  
  • An emotional roller coaster is normal. 
  • Sometimes emotions even surface with more than one at a time.  
  • There will always be days with good news and days with bad news. Keeping that in mind will help make the bad news more bearable.

Keep in mind that the variety of sources of support available. For example:

  • Family.
  • Friends.
  • Other people going through the same thing.
  • Professionals such as social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists.
  • Religion.
  • Spirituality.


From an emotional perspective, it helps to think of cancer as a chronic condition which has acute phases. Understanding this concept can help reduce ongoing anxiety and fear of recurrence. The number one concern of cancer patients is recurrence.

This perspective will hopefully also spur you to do everything you can to strengthen your ability to fight illness by eating right, exercising, taking care of your mouth, and getting enough rest/sleep.

Just Diagnosed

You are likely already experiencing a rush of emotions - often several at the same time.

In Treatment

During treatment, all kinds of emotions surface. Therapy itself can make you think your condition is getting worse rather than better. This is a good time to call on your support system, including support from your treatment team.

As a practical matter, treatment may be debilitating. You'll feel better if you do as much as you can until you can't.

When Treatment Ends

The emotional challenges don't end just because treatment does. In fact, high anxiety and a whole new set of challenges are to be expected. It may help to think of the end of treatment as the end of the first season (an acute phase in which you're an active patient). Now you're in recovery mode, beginning extended survivorship.

People expect you to put your life together and move on, while you're still dealing with what happened and the side effects. In fact, depression is common. You'll no longer be doing something active about your cancer, you will leave the warmth and support of the treatment team, your family wants the same old person back and people don't give you room to recover.

If you haven't before, this is a good time to consider joining a support group for support and to share the feelings that come up. You'll also learn practical tips about getting through this difficult phase.

Let the people around you know the transition post treatment takes time. According to Julia Rowland, head of the National Cancer Institute, it takes as much time to recover emotionally as the amount of time from first symptom to the very last day of your treatment. For example, if it was 8.5 months from diagnosis to end of treatment, it will likely take another 8.5 months to recover.

Fear of Recurrence

Fear of  recurrence is a fear that cancer may return after treatment and after a period of time during which the cancer cannot be detected. It is not unusual for the fear to surface before a follow-up visit, when you hear about someone else's cancer or if you experience aches and pains previously associated with cancer. The fear may not be connected to reality or your prognosis.

Worrying about a relapse doesn't help prevent one. It only affects the quality of the moment. Experience shows that it helps to talk about your fear, and that the fear gets less over time.

If You Need Professional Help

In addition to professionals with general knowledge who can help, there are specialists who deal with the difficulties that modern treatment and chronic decline have created. The sub-specialty which deals with cancer is known as Psycho-oncology.


HIV/AIDS is a treatable chronic condition that's here for life.

The swirling emotions that accompany a diagnosis are likely to subside. However, living with HIV leaves you vulnerable to emotional ups and downs, often at unexpected times. It is particularly important to watch for depression. Depression can affect your ability to function, cause you to skip taking your medications, or even skip necessary doctors' appointments.

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