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Newly Diagnosed With Cancer

Think of family and friends as part of your health care team. Ask them for help when you need it. Your health needs should come first, but also consider theirs. If you have underage children, tell them about your diagnosis in an age appropriate manner.

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Your team

Start thinking about the appropriate people around you as part of your team, just as doctors and other professionals are part of your team. Each member can provide his or her knowledge, advice and support. 

Who is actually involved with you and your health care, and to what degree, is up to you. You don't have to accept help just because it is offered.

Likewise, you can set limits on peoples' participation in your experience. For example, only spend time with people who are positive and supportive.

Expect that people will let you know when they hear stories about other people with your type of cancer or who have undergone the treatment you decide to take. This information can be overwhelming and not helpful. Feel free to let people know what you do or do not want them to pass on to you. Check any information you do learn with your doctor.

Ask for the help you need

Don't wait to ask for help until the burden gets too great or you reach a breaking point. You don't need to be Superman or Wonder Woman and try to deal with everything you did before your diagnosis as well as everything that comes along with a diagnosis. There will be times when you will need help either doing everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, child care, or matters directly related to your health such as bathing, accompanying you to doctor appointments or acting as a patient advocate if you enter a hospital.

Make a list of your chores and responsibilities that you can't handle right now. Divide them up among your team.

Consider a tip from Jeannette, a cancer survivor: she appointed a friend to coordinate her family and friends for her. It took away the burden. It was also helpful to her team members because they could more easily say "no" when they had to.

If you need Medicaid (Medi-cal in California) and have too many assets, consider entering into a caregiver contract with a family member or friend. Such a contract is a legal way of reducing your assets. We have an article concerning Caregiver Contracts noted in "To Learn More." 

Ask someone to go with you to important meetings

It is helpful to have a family member or friend attend all important meetings with doctors. Until treatment starts, that is basically every meeting. Such a person can help in a batch of ways, including helping ask questions, help you to recall what was said, and to help relieve anxiety.  We also recommend that you take  digital or tape recorder to each session, but you'll learn about tips like that in our content about maximizing your time with a doctor. See "To Learn More."

Think about their needs as well as your own.

A diagnosis affects everyone around you. Your needs come first, but theirs should not be ignored.

Just as you need to share your emotions, they should keep talking with one another. Talking keeps mole hill size difficulties from erupting in to mountain size problems.

Relax family rules to fit the situation

For example, meals could be eaten on paper plates with throw away plastic utensils. Chores that don't need to be done right away can be postponed.

Tell your children

If you have children, tell them about your diagnosis. Tell each child in a manner that is appropriate for his or her age. Children will know something is happening and will likely assume it is their fault if they are not told.

Non-medical professionals in your life

Tell your insurance broker, lawyer, accountant and other non-medical professionals in your life about your diagnosis. They may have suggestions about how it affects specific situations you face and how to best deal with them.

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