Hearing, “You have Cancer!,” for the 1st time

Hands down the hardest part of my job as an Orthopaedic Oncologist is giving bad news to people.  For those facing cancer for the first time that initial visit after a biopsy is a difficult one.  It is this visit when many patients hear for the first time they have cancer.   Emotions are raw at this appointment.   It is a time you want someone close to you present for support.  The more the merrier.  Many people shut down after hearing the diagnosis.  It is too overwhelming to take in.  Most rapidly turn to a plethora of questions and concerns.  Taking notes is very helpful and finding resources for self-education will also help.

Life changes after hearing that diagnosis.  Each individual reacts differently on this day and the patients and families that can accept the diagnosis and move onto questions of treatment do much better emotionally and psychologically.  Many ask WHY?  For most there is no reason why they are now dealing with this diagnosis.   Some become crippled by their disease.  Running from doctor appointment to doctor appointment.  Some figure out a better way.  To continue to live life and battle their disease at the same time.  They continue to work or go to school.  Do what they did before their diagnosis.   For some this just isn’t practical or obtainable.  For many it should be the goal.

Many of the current treatments for cancer are still toxic and tough on the body, but as targeted therapy gains ground hopefully the side effects will lesson and people can continue to enjoy the activities that are important to them.  You can’t change the fact you are now battling a sometimes relentless disease, but you can control how you approach the problem.  It can easily become all-encompassing and what defines you.   It is far healthier to tell cancer where it can go and to live life to its fullest.

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