Diagnosed with cancer? Here are 3 things you can do today

WHAT WE DO

WHAT WE DO

Last Updated: February 13, 2019

Table of Contents

Don't Freak Out
Yes - Don't Freak Out
Establish a Support System
Start Thinking About Finances
Look Into a Second Opinion
Closing Thoughts

“You have cancer.”

Three little words can welcome a lifetime of change.

Maybe you’ve recently received this news. Or a loved one has shared that he / she has and you’re doing some research about how to make sense of it.

A lot of emotions run through one’s head after learning about a cancer diagnosis. The following are things you should look to do immediately following a cancer diagnosis.

Have anything that helped you out? We’d love to hear! Email aerial@grythealth.com and we could include your perspective!

Don't Freak Out

A cancer diagnosis is the first step in developing a treatment plan. It’s important for your medical team to truly confirm a cancer diagnosis.

Next comes staging, which helps tell your medical team how invasive the disease is and a plan of attack for treatment. A whole barrage of tests usually compliment staging, as it’s important to determine how far along a cancer disease has spread in the body.

The worst thing you could do during diagnosis or staging is to consult Dr. Google.

Dr. Google is unfiltered. It’s mentally unhealthy for you. And can give you wildly different perspectives, many of which may be different from what you will face.

Instead, the best way to combat this period of time is to have a support system with people whom you can communicate openly and freely. Having an outlet for feelings - even if you want someone to just listen - can help you cope with the barrage of tests and time it takes for a cancer diagnosis or staging period to happen.

Yes - Don't Freak Out

Seriously.

As GRYT Health is made up of a team of cancer survivors and caregivers, we've all been there. With perspective, we know that not having a freak out moment is pretty much impossible.

But try to remember: a cancer diagnosis is a word, not a sentence. Treatment options, both front line and clinical trials, are allowing patients to have better outcomes.

OK. You’re allowed one freak out moment. It is OK – a cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. It’s natural to get angry or to get sad when you’re staring at the unknown and that’s OK. Allow yourself a safe outlet and get that freak out moment out of you.

Now - read on for steps to take once you’re ready to face your diagnosis.

Just diagnosed and on chemo but won't take away my passion

Establish a Support System

If you’re lucky, you’ll have friends and family who are in close proximity to where you live.

If this is you - great! Now don’t be shy or bashful to start asking for help.

It’s hard for some of us to really go out of our way and ask for help. Start getting used to it now, because during staging and treatment, you’re going to want help. Whether it’s driving to and from appointments, helping with childcare, helping with meals, or just having someone around… ask for help. Know who you can rely on. And rely on them.

Know that people want to help; all you have to do is ask.

Finding support online is also a great way to get a virtual support group you can access “on demand.” There are many different websites and groups out there who provide virtual support, from general cancer groups to specialized ones. Here is a list of some general cancer support groups:

Have you found a good online cancer support group? Let us know!

Along with general online cancer support communities, look for support communities focused on your cancer type to seek out others who are experiencing or have experienced what you're going through. A list of several of those specific cancer type resources are below that the GRYT Health team utilized during our own cancer diagnosis and treatment times:

Have you found any specific cancer type resources that helped you? We would love to hear about it and add to this list!

Start opening a dialogue with others who have gone through the same diagnosis. Ask for things they wish they would have known when they went through the process. No doubt, you’ll start hearing about things you didn’t even think about yet.

The GRYT app's matching ability can help you connect with others who have gone through exactly what you're facing.

A pet can also be a source of happiness and a "constant" in your life during a cancer diagnosis, particularly if you have the right support system. Don't rush into purchasing a kitty or a pooch without realistically thinking about how your pet will be supported. "Borrowing" a pet from a friend for awhile may be an option too.

Start Thinking About Finances

Cancer care is costly. US News cited ASCO in stating:

Newly approved cancer drugs cost an average of $10,000 per month, with some therapies topping $30,000 per month.

This doesn't factor in any major surgeries that a patient might have, testing for staging purposes, or even the ongoing expenses for follow-up care.

BusinessInsider has some stats:

The average yearly out-of-pocket costs associated with a new diagnosis was as little as $2,116 for low-income Medicaid beneficiaries to $5,976 for those in a Medicare Advantage or HMO program, and as high as $8,115 for those with no Medigap or supplemental insurance.

Strikingly, patients who hadn’t purchased supplemental insurance reported average annual out-of-pocket costs of one quarter of their entire yearly income, while one in ten patients said the costs amounted to at least 63 percent of their annual income.

Let’s then look at the total picture, not just money spent on treatment. Taking away costs mentioned above, there are additional expenses that are not even really thought of. In the published study The Financial Toxicity of Cancer Treatment: A Pilot Study Assessing Out-of-Pocket Expenses and the Insured Cancer Patient's Experience the following was reported:

Among 254 participants, 75% applied for drug copayment assistance. Forty-two percent of participants reported a significant or catastrophic subjective financial burden; 68% cut back on leisure activities, 46% reduced spending on food and clothing, and 46% used savings to defray out-of-pocket expenses. To save money, 20% took less than the prescribed amount of medication, 19% partially filled prescriptions, and 24% avoided filling prescriptions altogether.

This isn’t meant to scare you. This information is meant to get the message across to start doing your due diligence when it comes to contacting your health plan company and getting a clear picture on what your deductible is, when it ends for the year (typically at year end but some health plans do this differently), and other questions you may not have had to ever think about before.

The American Cancer Society has a good overview resource of typical expenses when going through a cancer life-event.

Also know that many healthcare networks can work with you on payment plans that offer little to no interest based on payment terms. It’s a good idea to play that “cancer card” after receiving a bill and see if you can get some reprieve from a large bill and split it into manageable, smaller monthly payments.

Look Into a Second Opinion

Why would someone who is newly diagnosed with cancer seek a second opinion?

Cancer can be complicated to diagnose and manage. Getting a second opinion helps you feel more confident about your diagnosis and treatment plan.

A second opinion should never upset the doctor who gave you your initial diagnosis. In fact, it’s quite the contrary; a doctor should feel confident in obtaining a second opinion that is in agreement with her own.

Additionally, a second opinion can be crucial in learning about clinical trials that might be a treatment option.

Most health plans cover the cost of seeking a second opinion when it comes to cancer diagnosis. Check with your own (see the section above: Start Thinking About Finances) and confirm.

For the best possible perspective, consider looking to obtain a second opinion (if the first isn’t from it) from a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center. You can see a list of these in the United States at the NCI website.

 

Closing Thoughts

Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, a whirlwind time begins. Often, those who have gone through a new cancer diagnosis use phrases like "out of control" and "chaotic" to describe the period of time.

What you need to do is take care of you as much as possible. And that means arming yourself with a support system, both  physical and online, planning your financial situation, and looking at obtaining a second opinion.

At GRYT Health, our mission is to help people affected by cancer achieve personal triumph by providing the information and building the relationships that, together, enable them to make decisions based on their personal values and lifestyles. We hope this resource can help those in that "out of control" time to help gain a small sense of control.

We also love hearing from the community. If you have anything to add or have any resources you utilized that helped, let us know and we'd love to add them. Let us know at aerial@grythealth.com.


References

Glover L. Oncologists Worry About Rising Costs of Cancer Treatment. US News & World Report. 1 Jul 2015; https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/07/01/oncologists-worry-about-rising-costs-of-cancer-treatment.

Pianin E. The Average Out-of-Pocket Costs for Cancer Patients Can be Catastrophic - Regardless of Health Care Coverage. Business Insider. 29 Nov 2016; https://www.businessinsider.com/the-average-out-of-pocket-costs-for-cancer-patients-can-be-catastrophic-regardless-of-health-care-coverage-2016-11.

Zafar SY, Peppercorn JM, Schrag D, Taylor DH, Goetzinger AM, Zhong X and Abernethy AP. The Financial Toxicity of Cancer Treatment: A Pilot Study Assessing Out-of-Pocket Expenses and the Insured Cancer Patient's Experience. Oncologist. 2013; 18(4):381-390.