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Receiving a cancer diagnosis is one of the most difficult things a person can go through. And figuring out what to do next can be just as challenging. Between the emotions, the questions and the growing to-do list, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Here are four things you need to prioritize after being diagnosed with cancer.

  1. Educate Yourself

As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” Learning about your diagnosis—how rare the kind of cancer is, what stage you’re in, what the survival odds are, and the likelihood of recurrence—can help you make more informed decisions about your treatment and planning for care. Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may be able to answer some of these questions or refer you to a specialist. They can also provide resources for treatment options and services like in-home care and counseling. 

Today, the internet provides no shortage of information, but remember that not all of it is medically sound. A Google search is not a replacement for a doctor. While search engines are great resources for looking up services, reviews, and basic cancer facts, you should always take a critical view of sources. Is the site you’re looking at part of a respected medical organization? Do they cite their sources or provide data to back up any claims? Are the opinions and accounts posted by medical professionals, patients, or random bystanders?

2. Build a Strong Care Team

Treatment is an essential part of fighting cancer, but who is treating you is also very important. Not only do you want providers who are experienced and knowledgeable, but they also need to be covered under your insurance.

As you look for specialists and service providers, always start with a list of those who are in-network and work from there. Next, make a list of any preferences or requirements you have, like distance from your home or the option for in-home service, and run these against your list of in-network providers.

Remember that diagnosis and treatment are only parts of medical care. You also need to consider the personal side, too. A doctor shouldn’t just be a good fit for your cancer diagnosis but also a good fit for you as a person. Trust and compatibility are equally important. If you do not feel comfortable with your doctor or feel they don’t listen to your needs or wishes, this can lead to complications in your care.

Finally, ensure you share a provider’s information with everyone on your care team so that the lines of communication remain open around your treatment.

3. Talk to a Financial Planner

It’s no secret that cancer treatment or any major medical event can be incredibly expensive, even with health insurance. The cost of care can be influenced by several factors, from your insurance provider to where you live and what kind of treatment you need. You may also need to consider additional expenses such as childcare or transportation. Talking to a financial planner is a great way to relieve some of the economic pressures of treatment. They can help you form a big-picture view of your assets and estimated costs to help you determine an expense budget. They may also know about financial assistance programs or tax breaks that could help lower costs. The Financial Planning Association has a Financial Planning for Cancer Program, developed in partnership with several other nonprofits, to assist families struggling financially due to a cancer diagnosis.

4. Put Aside Time for Self-Care

Last but certainly not least, make time for yourself. Everyone reacts to a cancer diagnosis differently, and the severity of that diagnosis will also affect how you respond. There is no normal way to react. Some people become very logical and focus on the next steps, while others get very emotional and upset. Both options are valid. Between the well wishes and worrying of friends and family, it may become hard to feel like you’re ever treated normally. You may have to ask for much more help than you’re used to. Make sure you set time aside to enjoy the things you love, whether hiking, reading, baking, or traveling. Some of these things may be harder to do as time passes, while others won’t.

It can be hard for those closest to us to relate to the feelings of a cancer diagnosis. Having a loved one come down with cancer is different than getting cancer yourself. These days, it’s easier than ever to connect with others in similar situations. There are local cancer survivor groups, cancer forums, and plenty of other gathering spaces. Having someone who “gets it” can do a world of good.