Top Five Things Not to Do After a Cancer Diagnosis

The way you decide to deal with your diagnosis of colon cancer is personal. Anger, sadness and frustration are common, but your response to these emotions can vary. There are some common things that people do after getting diagnosed and later say, "What was I thinking?" Fact is, you may not be thinking clearly at all. Hearing that you have a potentially life-limiting diagnosis can drastically change your perception.

Don't Do Anything Rash

I had a friend who shaved her head bald the day following her cancer diagnosis. Her thought process at the time was that if she had to lose her hair anyway, she'd rather do it on her schedule. Fact is, she had bowel surgery and her cancer was fairly small and localized. Based on a discussion with her oncologist, it was decided to forgo chemotherapy, which is the treatment primarily responsible for hair loss. Looking back, she admits it was a rather silly choice, but that was how she dealt with the news.

Now is not the time to make life-changing decisions or actions. If you were planning to make changes to your finances, professional decisions, or interpersonal relationships prior to being diagnosed, you may want to wait a few weeks to act upon them. Remember the old saying to "sleep on it", heed the advice, and give yourself time to acclimate to your new normal with cancer.

Keeping Secrets

Although it may be tempting to try and shield your family from the news that you have cancer, this decision might cause a lot of unnecessary pain in the future. Worse yet, if you try to keep your diagnosis a secret, you miss out on the support and assistance from the people you love. Your family can become your strongest ally in this fight, but they require time to digest the news that someone they love has colon cancer.

At some point during treatment you will probably require the assistance of your spouse or loved ones; a cancer diagnosis is going to upset your household routine – there's no way around that. Work together with your significant other to develop a plan and reorganize the way your household is run while you focus on treatment and getting better.

The American Cancer Society warns that when children are shielded or lied to about a parent's diagnosis, they will most times assume the worst. Rather than learning that mommy or daddy has cancer and that there is a plan in place to treat the cancer, the child may assume that you are very sick and possibly dying, and that is why you are not talking to them.

Minimizing Familial Concerns

Probably somewhere between one and two weeks following diagnosis you might be wondering why you ever told your family in the first place. The incessant "how are you feeling" and well-wishers can sometimes grate on your nerves. However, try to remember that although this is your fight, the people who love you are deeply affected.

Honest communication can help your family as much as it helps you. If they've never been diagnosed, your loved ones probably don't have a clue what you are feeling or thinking -- unless you tell them.

Giving Up

If it wasn't your very first thought leaving the doctor's office, it will come to mind sooner or later: "What did I do to deserve this?" Don't worry, this response is completely normal and something that you can overcome. Despair and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders is an honest response to getting diagnosed with cancer. However, throwing in the towel and giving up before you have a chance to fight is not. Modern science is taking leaps and bounds in cancer treatments. If caught early, colon cancer is highly treatable.

If I Ignore It, It Will Go Away

If you ignore your cancer diagnosis, there's a chance that the cancer will spread and metastasize to other parts of your body. Cancer is not a disease that simply goes away. Instead of ignoring it, consider embracing the diagnosis and learning as much as you can about this disease. A well-informed patient is a patient that can make educated decisions and take an active part in his or her health care.


American Cancer Society. (n.d.). How Do I Tell People About My Diagnosis? Accessed online September 12, 2013.

American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Fact Sheets for Professionals: Colorectal Cancer. Accessed online September 15, 2013.

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