Coping with a New Diagnosis of Blood Cancer
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2018 | Last updated: June 2023
Receiving a diagnosis of blood cancer can bring up many emotions for the individual and their family members, including feelings of shock, fear, anger, and worry. Cancer greatly impacts your life and can change the way you view everything, and a blood cancer diagnosis often comes with a lot of questions and unknowns. While you can’t control the diagnosis, it can be helpful to focus on the things you can control.1
Take action by learning about your disease
When you are newly diagnosed with blood cancer, there is a lot to learn about your particular type of blood cancer, the treatment approaches, and possible side effects from treatment. Taking time to learn more about your specific type of blood cancer can help you make informed decisions and advocate for your care.1,2 However, learn at a pace that is comfortable for you. Some people find that it can be overwhelming or cause added stress or anxiety to read too much at one time. Look for credible sources by medical professionals or sites that use referenced medical sources to be sure you are receiving credible information.
Reach out for support
Dealing with a diagnosis of blood cancer and going through treatment can be incredibly stressful, and this is a good time to reach out for help from friends, family, and others who have cancer.1 Talk to your friends and family about what is happening for you, and ask for what you need. It can be helpful for others who want to help, but don’t know how to help, to receive specific information on what you need, as well as what is not helpful to you.
Many people also benefit from support groups, which may meet in person or online. It can be helpful to have other people who understand what it’s like from their own similar experience. Many communities offer support groups for people with cancer.1 Online communities can be helpful for finding others with your specific subtype of blood cancer or others who have experienced the same treatment protocols.
Some people also may find they need professional help, such as meeting with a psychologist, counselor, or social worker. Many people with cancer experience mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. These are serious mood disorders that affect how a person thinks, feels, and handles daily activities and decisions. Mood disorders can be treated, and their treatment can greatly improve an individual’s quality of life.3
Lifestyle approaches that can help
There are several lifestyle approaches that not only can provide you with a sense of control, they can help improve your overall health, including:
- Getting good nutrition – Nutrition is always important, but it can become even more critical when either blood cancer or its treatment impact your appetite or the way foods taste. Proper nutrition can help keep your energy levels up and help your body heal.4
- Getting some exercise – While exercise may be limited due to your treatment, side effects, and your energy levels, even mild activities like walking, yoga, swimming, or gentle stretching can make your body feel better. Activity can also help with mood disorders, like depression (check with your doctor if you have an exercise restriction).1,3
- Managing stress – Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be extremely stressful, and it is also often stressful to deal with treatment for blood cancer. Finding ways to reduce or manage your stress is important, as chronic stress can weaken the immune system and decrease feelings of well-being. Nutrition, exercise, and support groups can help people manage stress. Other techniques that may help include meditation, breathing exercises, visualizations, and yoga.5