Cancer Center

12 Things To Do after Your Cancer Diagnosis

By James Tamkin M.D. and Dave Visel

This article originally appeared on It is adapted from The Myeloma Survival Guide.

As a newly diagnosed cancer patient, you are beginning a long, complicated, physically and mentally taxing journey. Here are twelve things to start doing now to make your journey a little easier.

1. Recognize that you are a changed person. You are not the same person you were before the cancer diagnosis. You cannot ever be that pre-cancer person again. Insist that others recognize the new you as well. No pretends. No if-onlys. Don’t whisper cancer’s name or give it some cutesy-pie nickname. You’ve got what you’ve got. Now’s the time to do something about it.

2. Get a guru. The leader of your treatment team must be a medical doctor (MD or DO), whose specialty is cancer (oncology), who is an expert in blood diseases (hematology), and who has treated other patients with the type of cancer you have. A referral within the medical community is the most likely way you are going to get into the right hands. If you live in or near a city, there’s a good chance that the diagnosing doctor can do this for you. If that doesn’t work, pick a cancer treatment center specializing in the type of cancer you have and let the institution assign you the expert you need from its staff.

3. Go with the flow. Visits and tests will lead to more visits and tests. Your guru, or the hospital you chose, will cause other professional specialties to come to your aid. The treatment team for a cancer patient will build to half a dozen doctors plus technicians and nurses in no time. Don’t get in the way of this process. Let it happen. Watch and learn how to work with each specialty.

4. Separate the sheep from the goats. As your team building is taking place, friends, family and others will be interested. Some of them will have medicinal suggestions they just know will help you. Stop and ponder this interesting phenomenon: Why would someone who has absolutely no experience dealing with this complicated, dangerous disease, prescribe for you? Be nice to these people. They want to help. Had they thought about it, they might have realized that they are endangering your well-being. But they never do stop to think.

5. Work on your elevator speech. Years ago, some salesman came up with the idea that the most effective explanation for anything should require no more time that it takes for you and the listener to rise one floor in an elevator. You need a simple, truthful explanation of what’s wrong with you. It should include the name of your cancer and something to explain it such as a cancer in my bones. Keep in mind that children may need something less brutally frank.