Leukaemia Foundation

Leukaemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma & Related Blood Disorders.

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At Diagnosis

There is no doubt that a diagnosis of a blood or bone marrow cancer is very serious and is often life threatening. It is important to remember however that these days, with treatment, many people can be cured of their cancer. For others, treatment can control their disease and they can remain well for a long time.

A diagnosis of cancer is often devastating, both for the person who receives the diagnosis and those around them. At this time people naturally fear for their own lives or that of the person they love. While it is sometimes difficult to avoid focusing on the possibility of death, it is important to remember that survival rates for many blood and bone marrow cancers have risen dramatically, and will continue to improve in the future.

Different people cope with a diagnosis of a serious condition like cancer in different ways, and there is no right, or wrong, or 'usual' reaction. For some people, the diagnosis may trigger a range of emotional responses.

People are often shocked by the diagnosis even if they have suspected for some time that there was something not quite right. It is normal to react with extreme fear, disbelief and confusion. You may become angry or even furious with the doctor or those around you. There maybe a sense of numbness or that the situation is not real, that a 'mistake' has been made. Hearing the news of your child's diagnosis can be an extremely distressing experience.

As well as the emotions listed above, parents often feel a sense of powerlessness in the face of not being able to protect the sick child from the illness and the potential side-effects of the treatment they may need to go through. These are all normal and understandable initial reactions to such a serious threat to your life, or the life of someoneyou love.

The time immediately after such a diagnosis is often one of great anxiety, distress, uncertainty and confusion. You may feel a great sense of sadness and grief at the possibility of dying or losing loved ones. At times urgent decisions may need to be made regarding treatmentsoon after diagnosis and this can be very stressful. It is important to remember that emotions can run very high when you or someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer. This is all normal and no one should feel ashamed or disappointed by his or her reactions at this very demanding time.

As the reality of the diagnosis begins to sink in, people often search for answers to why this has happened to them or what they have done to bring about such a serious illness. It is important to realise that in most cases it is not known what causes these forms of cancer.

It takes time to adjust to a diagnosis of cancer. However, with enough time, enough information and a great deal of support, the shock of the diagnosis will be replaced by the reality of your situation and what you need to do next. With help, you will learn to cope with your situation in an effective and positive way that gives you a sense of perspective and control over your own life. It is also important that family members remain optimistic and provide positive support for the people coping with a diagnosis of cancer.

"Sometimes the diagnosis of cancer can come so suddenly and there has been little evidence of it before. Then the need for treatment and the threat of death can be very stressful...at least it was for me - I was working full time up to a week before I was diagnosed."