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Protecting Your Mental Health After A Cancer Diagnosis

Breast Cancer WarriorAbout The Author: Aisha is a mother, wife, and triple-positive breast cancer warrior currently on her third round of chemo. You can follow her cancer journey on Instagram @aisha_patterson.

Sharing The News After Being Diagnosed

You just got the worst news of your life…you have cancer. Now it’s time to pick up the phone and tell your closest friends and family members. Phone call after phone call. Heartbreak after heartbreak. Your tribe is doing their absolute best to make you feel better as they fall apart in their own ways. They express their love and pain for you. You feel so deeply loved and supported yet here and there you feel this pang of annoyance whenever someone says something like…  

“You have to be strong!”  

“We can’t lose you!”  

“You’re gonna beat this but you’ve got to cut down on the sugar.”  

“I tried calling you…..?”  

“Let me know if you need anything.”  

As soon as everyone knew that I had cancer, everyone was offering to help us and we knew we  desperately needed it but we were so immersed in our pain that we didn’t even know what we  needed or how to communicate it. Once I got diagnosed, it felt like we were sitting under a  cloud. Everything was foggy and if someone asked me if I wanted olives on my pizza, I might  scream because that was literally the last thing that mattered to me. People would tell us to let  them know what we needed but we didn’t know. Everything was cloudy. But how do you say  that? These things kept festering. I knew my friends and family members meant well so I didn’t  say anything. Finally, I had what I call a “download.” It’s when God gives me an idea and downloads it right into my heart. Anyways, Aisha’s Code of Cancer was born.  

Creating A Physical List On Ways To Support You

My Code of Cancer was a list of 22 items that was basically a playbook on how to support  me through this season. It included a list of boundaries, health details, and ways they could  make my life easier. I did it so I could protect my mental health. I did it because I wanted the  people close to me to know that they didn’t need to fix it for me. I just needed to fall apart. I  didn’t need to be strong. I needed my mom to know that I would probably drop the F-bomb  here and there. I needed to give them guidelines on how to treat my children if they were in  their care. I needed to say all of this one time and leave the rest to them.  

Here are some more examples from my Code of Cancer: 

- Please do not talk about my health in front of my kids unless I’m present and leading the conversation or okay with it.  

-Phone calls are hard. Texting is much easier right now. If I don’t respond to your text, please do not take it personally. 

-A listening ear goes a really long way. Sometimes, I just want to cry. I usually know what I need to do but sometimes I just want to vent and cry and fuss over all this crap. I promise  you don’t have to always figure it out for me or offer advice.  

How To Create Your Own Code of Cancer

Here are some tips you can follow if you are interested in making your own code of cancer:

  1. Schedule some time alone.  
  2. Write down information about you and your unique situation that would be helpful to your  friends and family members. This should include; boundaries, communication requests and  what you may need help with. Examples: meals, rides, transporting your kids etc.  
  3. Also include a brief description of your diagnosis so you don’t have to keep repeating it  (you’ll still probably have to :)).  
  4. Deliver it to them. I can’t give you much advice on how to give it to them. This part should  come from you.  

Deciding When & How To Share 

As for me, I printed 15 copies and gave them to my closest friends and family members on  Thanksgiving night around a fire pit. With shaking in my voice, I read the code of cancer out  loud. They cried with me and embraced and thanked me for communicating with them. I made  them a promise that I would always be honest about what I needed and would let them help  me. The Code of Cancer communicated to them how to help me best. As a fixer by nature, this  was the last thing I fixed for the people in my life. For the first time in my life, it was time to  focus on myself. If you would like a copy of my Code of Cancer, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram

If you are looking for more resources and support for those going through chemotherapy, check out our other blogs

Best Creams for Chemo

5 Things No One Told Me About Chemo

Gift Ideas For A Patient Undergoing Chemotherapy

What are some other ways you can support a man going through cancer? Let us know in the comments. We love hearing from our community members! If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us for more information.

1 Response

Erica Marrero

Erica Marrero

April 09, 2021

Great read!! You are such an inspiration. I am a nonhodgkins lymphoma survivor from 2019 And this was such a good read. During such an overwhelming time, it’s hard to make boundaries and know just what you need or how to even communicate your thoughts. I feel this will help many people! God bless you girl 💜 xoxoxo

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