Just Diagnosed With Cancer - Now What? Four Things To Do Today

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.

The GRYT Health Perspective - from those that have been in your shoes: This resource was written primarily from Christian Bullock with additional input from the rest of the GRYT Health team. These are things that we wish we would have done when we received a cancer diagnosis. Hindsight is 20/20, so we hope that these things to remember can help out others.

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

Additionally - you can view the following video that hits on these touchpoints below:

Don't Freak Out

A cancer diagnosis is the first step in developing a treatment plan. Your medical team needs 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 compliments staging, as it’s crucial 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 staging time is to have a support system with people with whom you can communicate openly and freely. Having an outlet for feelings - even if you want someone to listen - can help you cope with the barrage of tests and the time it takes for a cancer diagnosis or staging period to happen.

Additionally - you can use technology such as Vivibot to help practice mental health exercises, so your mental health doesn't deteriorate.

Vivibot Mental Health Chatbot

Vivibot is a mental health chatbot that listens to you 24/7/365. She's always there for you. And she's available at the GRYT Health web platform or app.

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 freakout 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 freakout moment out of you.

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

Establish a Support System

If you’re lucky, you’ll have friends and family who are close 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 go out of our way and ask for help. Start getting used to it now because you’re going to want help during staging and treatment. 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 that provide virtual support, from general cancer groups to specialized ones. Here is a list of some broad cancer support groups:

Have you found an amazing online cancer support group? Let us know by emailing christian@grythealth.com and we'll get it added!

Along with general online cancer support communities, look for support communities focused on your cancer type to seek 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. Think of them as GRYT Health-approved cancer resources:

Have you found any specific cancer type resources that helped you? We would love to hear about it and add it to this list! Email christian@grythealth.com and we'll look to vet it before adding it 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 something you didn’t even think about yet.

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

GRYT Health Community Platform Matching

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 puppy without really thinking about how you will support your pet.

Borrowing a pet from a friend for a while might be an option too.

Start Thinking About Finances

Cancer care is costly. AARP reports:

One study noted that “novel cancer therapy agents can cost more than $60,000 a month for treatment. And the average monthly cost per agent has more than doubled in the past decade, to $10,000."

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

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. There are additional expenses that are not even really thought of outside the expenses mentioned above.

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 information isn’t meant to scare you. This information is intended to get the message across to start doing your due diligence when contacting your health plan company. Getting a clear picture of your deductible, 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 is a good idea.

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. It’s quite the contrary; a doctor should feel confident in obtaining a second opinion 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 a 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 yourself 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 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 christian@grythealth.com.