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Things I Wish I Knew Before I Was Diagnosed

My life is not over.

My greatest fear upon learning about my diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma was that I was dying. I had just experienced a wonderful summer at the shore with my family and had so much to look forward to. With this cancer news, I felt my life was over. Fortunately, my astute husband accompanied me to my second opinion oncologist in a tertiary cancer center. He heard the oncologist state that in today’s world, I would have “decades and decades” to live. Of course, due to my anxious state I did not hear this prognosis. I was focused on the chemotherapy regime, possible side effects, and the required physician visits.

It was not until we arrived home and my husband said he was surprised that I was so worried and disgusted. He wondered why I was not reacting to the positive news. Several days later, in talking with a most caring Leukemia and Lymphoma Society representative, I learned that in her words, “There were many advances in the pipeline for blood cancers.” I became more hopeful and learned to never miss an opportunity to spend time with my granddaughter.

My life is fulfilling in spite of my cancer.

I volunteer as a patient advocate for fellow NHL cancer patients and enjoy writing and sharing my experiences with blood cancer. I have embraced the mantra, “You only regret the things you do not do.” We are excitedly planning a European trip next year with my children. Of course, to play it safe, I always purchase travel insurance as I anticipate next year’s CT scan.

Don’t sweat the small stuff!

I am really a type A personality and need to be in control and often waste time worrying. I am learning to focus on things that really matter. Life will never be the same. I am a cancer survivor and try to enjoy every moment. I still experience scanxiety before my annual CT scan, but my oncologist recognizes this and makes every effort to contact me promptly with the results.

The importance of support.

I learned the importance of family and friends. They can make a difference. Let them help. It is not a sign of weakness. People may not know exactly how to help. Tell them. Perhaps a ride to the oncologist’s appointment, providing a meal, taking your child to an activity when you may be too tired, or even shopping are examples of providing support during this most difficult time in your life.

Exercise can make a difference.

I have never been an exercise advocate. However, after experiencing incapacitating cancer and treatment-related fatigue, I learned that mild exercise could help. This combined with a beginner’s practice of yoga really gave me energy and cleared my head.

Practice gratitude.

I learned that every day is a gift. NHL is a chronic illness which will require ongoing physician visits and scans. I continually search the literature for the latest therapies. No one is certain as to the cause of my follicular lymphoma. Was it a pesticide that I used in gardening? We will never know. I have discovered my spiritual beliefs provide tremendous support. Journaling my list of gratitude has identified my faith, family, and friends as factors that have made this cancer journey a successful one.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Jim Smith moderator
    3 months ago

    @cmccue Finding fulfillment in your life despite the cancer is one of the best ways to alleviate worry. Like you, I find writing to be a huge release.

    I like your suggestions for how people can help. Often friends and family don’t know what to do. Telling them specifically what you need gives them a goal, a purpose, in their relationship with you. We need to ask otherwise people may not know how to help even when they want to.

    And you are so right, being grateful for what we do have is so important.

    Thanks for the great post.

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Glad you found this helpful.
    Finding fulfillment is most important.
    Wishing you good health.

  • Racheli Alkobey moderator
    3 months ago

    I love this. I agree with everything you listed here. It’s fascinating to see the purpose of our lives and how it’s become so much bigger than we could have ever thought. I also truly give this death scare the credit for teaching my that exercise plays a role in so many different aspects of my life. Totally makes a difference. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Yes a death scare affects us tremendously.
    Wishing you well

  • Ann Harper moderator
    3 months ago

    An initial diagnosis is always scary and fear invoking. Having family and others there for support and to help you at appointments is so important. Practicing gratitude is slso important and I give thanks every morning for the new day I’ve been blessed with. I know your life has changed but you’re making the most of it – good for you!

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Thank you Ann.
    I have learned the importance of faith, family and friends

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    3 months ago

    @cmccue Important information I wish I had before I was thrown into the deep end of the pool. Good stuff for anyone to read. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Thanks Daniel

  • Shayla.Oakes moderator
    3 months ago

    @cmccue, great article. I know many in the communities will relate to this one. We all should practice gratitude.I wish you continued success on your journey.

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Thank you Shayla,
    It gives me satisfaction if others can learn from our experiences,

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Glad it was helpful. God bless you!

  • Carole McCue author
    3 months ago

    Hope this iinfo helps our community.
    Thank you

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