Join tens of thousands of cancer fighters, survivors, and supporters who understand. Why Join?

7 Things NOT To Do When Diagnosed With Cancer

August 15th, 2015 |
Recently Diagnosed, Emotional Support

by sedonawoman | Survivor: Colon and Rectal Cancer    Connect

When you first receive a cancer diagnosis, questions will start flooding your mind. It's important to keep these under control by knowing what NOT to do.

The urgency of receiving a cancer diagnosis requires your undivided attention as you attempt to understand this new information and sort things out. Looking back at my own experiences, I recall hearing those words and feeling a sudden feeling of tremendous shock. It honestly felt like a boulder fell from the sky and socked me right on top of my head! I reacted with an enveloping sense of disbelief that left me both stunned and speechless. It felt in that moment like time was frozen and I was functioning in extremely slow motion. It was as if I was almost completely paralyzed with fear of what to think or do next.

These sensations lingered for several days afterward. The BIG unknown of having cancer was quite overwhelming.Feeling both sadness and grief for what was ahead and what I was leaving behind, I realized that I had to process this information on my own timetable. Even though I had loved ones providing emotional support, I was alone in my struggle to grasp this newfound knowledge. No one could help make make sense of it.

Once I realized I alone had to face my new reality, I immediately thought of what I could and couldn't do to aid myself in regaining a sense of internal control. Here's my compiled list of learned 'do not's' that helped create my own action plan to navigate this crisis:


I needed to remind myself not to jump to the worst possible conclusion. I was not the first person to be diagnosed with cancer, I was not the first one who was going to experience these emotions. Other people have done it and they are still here.

2.Be Passive.

I couldn’t sit back and let my caregivers or medical team take all of the control. I needed to assert myself in helping to determine the best possible outcome I could achieve.

3. Be Non-Compliant.

It was my responsibility to follow my Oncology medical team’s recommendations to proceed with my action plan. Being compliant doesn’t mean being passive in accepting treatment, it means being accountable by following through with what’s been prescribed to determine one’s successful outcome. When you come to an agreement with your physician about your treatment plan, it's important to heed their advice, take your meds, keep appointments, complete necessary tests, etc.

4.Be unorganized.

We all have lives before cancer hits and if we let all of our responsibilities fall to the wayside as soon as we are diagnosed, it will only lead to more stress during treatment. I needed to set my priorities for what was most important now and what could be pushed aside for later. Essentially, I had to get all my 'ducks in a row.'

5. Be uninformed.

There’s a lot of information out there, but I wanted to make sure I fully understood my cancer diagnosis, to the best of my ability. Your medical team may not tell you what all of the foreign words mean – it’s up to you to learn as much as you can.

6. Procrastinate.

It’s easy to want to just put everything off because you don’t want to deal with it. But it won’t go away. Even though I took the time to prepare and do my research, I knew was in my best interest to not delay my progress so I gave myself a concise timeline.

7. Be indecisive.

This one is easier said than done, as there are so many decisions that need to be made. I knew that I had to be well aware and focused to enable myself to make the best possible choices that impact my future. Some final questions that helped me to establish my personal action plan and enable myself to proceed with a viable course of action were:

  • What do I need to do now?
  • What decisions do I need to address?
  • What will the outcome be?
  • What results should I expect?
  • What can I accomplish by doing ____?
  • What is relevant for me now?
  • What can I chose to let go that isn't right for me now?
  • What time frame am I looking at for _____?
  • What are my personal goals for the next day? Next week? Next 90 days?
  • What are my most immediate needs?

Even though this cancer crisis was happening, I kept focused by avoiding all of these “do nots”. I constantly reminded myself over and over daily that I was in the one in charge of what I could do or not do next. I made an affirmative clear choice to answer my 'call to action' by paying attention to my list of needs and always following what was in my own best interests.

What else do you have to add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Related Blog Posts:
Related Discussion Questions: (Image courtesy of the DepositPhotos)

Sign up to join our community here to continue the conversation.

Want to blog with us ? Learn more here.

sedonawoman's picture
Helen H. Cohen, MA, CEG, is a certified professional life coach, as well as a Stage III Colon Cancer survivor who recently celebrated her seven year cancer-free mark. Her intention as a cancer survivorship life coach is to inspire other cancer survivors and their significant others who wish to move forward with their 'new' lives post cancer treatment. It is her belief that this transitional phase provides a great opportunity to reinvent, renew focus, reevaluate one's life's purpose and forge a new direction. From her own personal cancer journey, she has a changed perspective and a different outlook. To read more about her, please click here or to connect with her on IHadCancer under the name, sedonawoman.