OMG! I've Been Diagnosed with Lung Cancer! NOW WHAT???

Every one of us has been there. We’ve heard the words, “You have lung cancer.” And our world stopped. At least for a moment. And then, it began spinning, spinning, spinning out of control.

All of a sudden, we’re faced with a million questions. We’re thrown into a world most of us know nothing about ... a world that most of us don’t want to know anything about ... but we’re here now and we must learn -- a lot -- whether we want to or not.

Words of wisdom from a patient advocate

Frances Spruit, a lung cancer survivor and advocate, in a February 2019 presentation, said that there are two things you must do right away after getting a cancer diagnosis:1

  1. Find your most trusted ally. This person may be your spouse, parent, child, or best friend. It may be someone else. Whoever it is, he or she needs to be a person that will be strong when you need someone upon whom to lean; someone who will be there for you through thick and thin; someone who can go with you to doctor visits, help listen to options, and help you think through the route you want to take.
  2. Shake the fear. There’s work to do!

Admittedly, the second is easier said than done, but you must find the inner strength to carry on. The first few weeks or months after diagnosis are a whirlwind of new and different tests and treatments.

Let’s look at your treatment team

Your treatment team is likely to be made up of a variety of medical specialists, including pathologists, radiologists, oncologists, pulmonologists, and more. But, do you know who the most important member of the team is? YOU.

Don’t be intimidated because you do not possess a medical degree. Do not allow the medical team to discuss your disease or treatment options in ways that you do not understand. If you are confused, stop them and ask questions until you are comfortable with what you are being told.

This is YOUR life. And no one, no one, cares more about that life than you do. That makes you the most important member of the treatment team.

If you do not like or trust someone that is on your medical team, fire them! It is vitally important that you feel comfortable with those responsible for treating your disease. In many ways, they hold your life in their hands. You must believe that they (1) care about you as a person, (2) have adequate knowledge to treat you, (3) have respect for you and your opinions, and (4) are aware that you lead the team, not them.

Questions you should ask your doctor

In a February 2019 webinar, Dr. Gregory A. Otterson, a thoracic oncologist at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told viewers that there are several questions you should ask your medical team about your cancer:1

  1. What is the nature of my cancer? Is it small cell or non-small cell? If it is non-small cell, is it squamous cell, adenocarcinoma, large cell, or something else?
  2. What stage is the cancer?
  3. How will other health concerns I have, such as diabetes, arthritis, or heart issues, impact the treatment of my cancer?
  4. What tests will be performed to determine my treatment plan?

Reach out to our community

There’s no doubt that getting a cancer diagnosis is one of the scariest, if not THE scariest, thing you’ve ever experienced. Please know that we are here for you and we are happy to answer questions or help however we can. Reach out to us in the comments and someone will respond soon.

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