Diagnosis – It can’t be true!

Each person experiences illness in their own way. However, getting cancer often causes the sufferer to have a psychological crisis. This section provides ways to survive in a crisis and deal with one’s own emotions.

Diagnosis – It can’t be true!

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can feel like a lightning strike that changes your life and shatters your basic sense of security. When you hear of a confirmed diagnosis, it can be difficult to process the information in the moment. Your emotions may even become flat and you may feel unreal and empty, and your reactions may veer from chaotic to calm. You may think you are going on with life as before, or the information you receive may make you feel as if your life is crumbling under your feet.

  • This can’t be true!
  • I’m perfectly healthy!
  • What can help?

Try to stay specific, just go back to what you were told and what the next step in your treatment plan is. Be aware that your feelings can influence what you hear. When we feel overwhelmed, our attention can be pulled in many different directions. A sense of security is strengthened by connection with other people.

Reactions are part of adaptation

The normal predictability of life gives way and you are faced with the uncertainty and limitations of life. All this fundamental change about the future understandably arouses strong emotions.

  • “I’m going crazy”
  • “I’ll never get out of this”
  • “My children or husband can’t handle this”

“Why has this happened to me?”

There are no definite answers to your questions about how your recovery will progress, how long your treatments will last, whether they will work, and how much time you have left to live. Faced with all this uncertainty, you will understandably experience strong emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger and insecurity. You may feel tearful and your food may not taste as good as it used to, sleep may be delayed in the evenings and you may experience heart palpitations. You may be tempted to isolate yourself from your own helplessness and despair. You may be afraid of how others will react to your feelings or how you will cope with their feelings.

What might help?

Do you spend a lot of time worrying about the future? Your ideas about what might happen may not be based on solid information. These beliefs expose you to negativity and exaggeration. By focusing on what is happening now, you will be more open to becoming aware of what is valuable and meaningful to you in the moment and to using your resources for that.

How to cope with emotions?

An unexpected diagnosis that shatters your dreams of a comfortable, predictable life can evoke fear and vulnerability. There are many strong emotions associated with being sick. You may be anxious. You might also be sad or angry.


Cancer can bring the experience of life’s limitations and the awareness that life is not proceeding as you had expected and planned. Understandably, this brings frustration and anger.

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Fear, anxiety and stress

An unexpected diagnosis that shatters your dreams of a comfortable, predictable life can trigger fear and vulnerability.

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How do I cope with it all?

The strongest emotions often subside gradually over time, and adjustment becomes more and more an inner work in itself. 

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