When you learned that you have colorectal cancer, you were probably flooded with a host of emotions—fear, anger, confusion. You may have felt crushed—or in complete denial. You probably didn’t remember any of the information, and you have no idea how to begin dealing with your situation. This is perfectly normal. First of all, realize that a diagnosis of cancer is not a death sentence. A lot of progress has been made in the field, and survival rates today are higher than ever before. Your first task is to decide that you will do everything you can to be successful in your battle against this cancer. This positive attitude will be your best ally throughout treatment and recovery. So, where to begin? Here are the initial steps you need to take to get control of the situation: • Acknowledge your feelings, realize that they are normal, but don’t let them affect your judgement. • Assemble a network of healthcare professionals, friends and peers to help you deal with the situation. • Contact a patient advocacy group, such as the Colon Cancer Alliance, to connect with other cancer survivors. • Learn all you can about the disease and the different treatment options. • Most importantly, become an active participant in your treatment and recovery.

The first few weeks after your diagnosis may be the hardest to handle. You may spend hours dwelling on questions such as “Why me?” or “Will the cancer kill me?” Or you might find yourself feeling “blue” and depressed to the point of not caring about the outcome of your disease. You might snap in anger at friends or loved ones. This confusing roller coaster is natural. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your emotions slip out of your control every once in a while. At a time like this, no one will expect you to be in perfect balance all the time.

The best approach is to find someone you can talk to about what you are experiencing. This should be a mature, well-adjusted person who can listen without passing judgment. Very close friends or family members may not be the best choice, because they can be too involved in the situation to remain objective. Ask your doctor, nurse, or social worker for a referral for professional counseling. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers can be very helpful with problems such as depression, panic attacks, feelings of isolation, and other issues that concern you. You can also go to a local support group of cancer survivors who meet regularly, in person or online, to offer mutual support.

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