7 Things to Do When You're Diagnosed with Cancer

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There are 7 helpful and empowering things you can do right away if you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, including thyroid cancer. istockphoto

Cancer is a word that no one wants to hear. When you or a loved one gets a cancer diagnosis -- or specifically, a diagnosis of thyroid cancer -- you may feel a number of emotions: anger, fear, numbness, helplessness, or even denial. Once you've gotten over the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis, here are 7 things to do as soon as possible that will help in the process of being informed, empowered cancer patients and patient advocates.

1. Remember That Most Thyroid Cancers Have an Excellent Prognosis

While the "C word" can be frightening, remember that most thyroid cancers have an excellent prognosis. You may even hear from doctors that "thyroid cancer is good cancer." This "good cancer" label can be frustrating to some patients, but it's an effort to explain that the majority of thyroid cancers are treatable and survivable.

2. Join the Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association (ThyCa) or a Similar Support Group

For those diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association -- known as ThyCa -- can be a valuable resource, providing information, resources, listservs, one-on-one support, an annual conference, doctor referrals, and other crucial support for thyroid cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers. You can also visit their page for newly diagnosed thyroid cancer patients, and order a free 50-page handbook called Thyroid Cancer Basics along with other materials.

For those diagnosed with other types of cancer, I recommend connecting with a similar support group. The American Cancer Society has a good listing of various types of support groups, both in-person and online, for different types of cancer.

3. Order the "Moss Report"

Once there is a specific diagnosis of the type of cancer, and the staging, many people go to the Internet to research.

Unfortunately, this can be a complicated, and time-consuming process, and along with valid information, you'll also find all sorts of marketing information designed to sell every kind of pill, potion, and cure-all imaginable. It can be overwhelming to navigate through all this information, and determine which information is sound, and which is, frankly, snake oil. To bypass this process, I highly recommend ordering a copy of the specific Moss Report matched to the type of cancer. (Dr. Ralph Moss' Cancer Decisions.)

There are Moss Reports for 22 different categories of cancer, including Thyroid Cancer.

Moss Reports save you weeks of research on your own. Dr. Moss is a researcher who has an integrative approach, but scientific, so he presents all of the conventional treatments, with their pros and cons, success rates, and other information, and also does this for scientifically tested alternative approaches. You'll get scientifically vetted information that looks at both conventional and alternative, nutritional, and other approaches.

The Moss Reports are also updated regularly the latest research findings, drug trials, clinical trials, and journal studies, so you can be confident you are getting the most current information.

Moss Reports can be purchased online, or in hardcopy -- they come in a fat tabbed binder -- and include detailed resources sections, with recommendations regarding practitioners for particular therapies, new studies that you can enroll in, specific doctors doing cutting-edge treatments, and other valuable information.

4. Order the Book "Own Your Cancer"

I would also recommend ordering the book Own Your Cancer: A Take-Charge Guide For The Recently Diagnosed And Those Who Love Them, by Peter Edelstein, MD. Dr. Edelstein, a cancer surgeon, noticed how independent people surrender control over their lives to the health care system upon learning that they have cancer.

In an interview at the About.com Thyroid site, Dr. Edelstein told us: "...with three little words, "You have cancer," they completely surrendered their independence and passed all decision-making authority over this life-threatening disease to strangers." His book explores the cancer industry machine, and explains how patients can "stay in control of your cancer," and "own your cancer" and not end up relinquishing control and ending up on the cancer assembly line.

Instead of feeling like a victim, patients, and their advocates learn how to navigate through the system, and even take advantage of it, maintaining their independence and authority over their lives and avoiding the one-size-fits-all treatment pathway.

5. Order the Book "Radical Remission"

I would recommend ordering a copy (or more) of the book Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner Ph.D. I would recommend a copy for not only the cancer patient but the advocate(s) who will be supporting him/her. Turner, a conventional medical researcher, studied thousands of cases of serious cancers from around the world, and found that cases of radical remission-- defined as recovery against the odds or after conventional medicine has given up -- have nine key factors in common, no matter what kind of cancer, how far along it was, or what the prognosis was. The book then explains each of the factors and explains in practical ways how to make these factors work as part of a cancer treatment approach.

"Radical Remission" is grounded in science, and doesn't include what conventional doctors would consider "woo" or "snake oil" type approaches. Rather, it is practical and well-researched, and looks at the role of nutrition, herbs, and mind-body health, among other factors, to help in cancer treatment.

6. Order "A Meditation to Help You Fight Cancer" CD or MP3

I recommend that anyone with cancer download a copy of the CD or MP3 of "A Meditation to Help You Fight Cancer," by noted mind-body therapist Belleruth Naparstek. (CD/MP3.)

Belleruth Naparstek creates phenomenal guided meditations, and I've personally given this CD to a number of people dealing with cancer. Everyone who has used them said they were comforting, relaxing, empowering, and helped reduce anxiety before and after surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments.

7. Read "The Median Isn't the Message" by Professor Stephen Jay Gould

No matter what the prognosis is from the doctor, it's important to remember that a prognosis is only an estimate, it's merely a guess of what will happen. A prognosis is NOT a fact. In Stephen Jay Gould's essay, "The Median Isn't the Message" you learn that prognostic information is guesstimates, not guarantees. If a cancer patient receives a prognosis that says that "most people with this type/stage of cancer live 2 to 7 years," some people will live two years, but some people are still alive 20 years later. Gould focuses on how to be one of the people who are still alive, an outlier on the statistical curve.

When my mother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer more than a decade ago, the doctor very coldly told us she had six months to live at most. My family and I decided that the prognosis was not six months, but rather the prognosis was "uncertain." That's what we told everyone, and it became our mantra, rather repeating to everyone that the doctor said she had six months, we refused to give power to that prognosis. She and I both embraced this essay, and with a combination of conventional and alternative treatments, my mother ended up living almost three more years, with a good quality of life, far exceeding this dire doctor's predictions.

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