How to Get Over the Shock & Overwhelm of a Cancer Diagnosis

If you’re reading this then chances are you’ve recently been diagnosed with the Big C. I don’t envy the position you’re in, because just like you, I’ve been where you are.

It was damn tough.

The good news is that the beginning is the hardest part.

It can only get better on from here and out. But, and this is a big BUT, that’s only if you choose to.

how to get over the shock of a cancer diagnosis - emotional coping

The keyword here being CHOOSE. You can either CHOOSE to go through this journey sad, and depressed. Or you can CHOOSE a better alternative.

That is, to view this cancer thing as a challenge. To take an active role in everything and make the most out of a bad situation.

Listen, no one expects you to be happy and smiling all the time, but you can give yourself permission to be happy and smiling some of the time. But I’ll go into more detail in another post.

First let’s try and address the shock and overwhelm that you’re feeling right now.

You’re probably trying to process what just happened. One day you were living your life and the next you’re looking at death in the face. Cancer was the first time that I came face to face with my mortality and I was only 29 years old back then. I foolishly thought that I was young and invincible.

It was a real scary time. But I want to get real with you here.

It’s important for you to regain your emotional bearings as quickly as possible.

Because when it comes to the Big C, the medical community tends to move fast and decisions will be made, with or without your insight and input. It’s easy to get swept up in the momentum of diagnosis and treatment. Add to that the complex nature of cancer and the interdisciplinary team of pathologist, oncologist, surgeons, radio-oncologists and nurses. Often times, critical details are overlooked, and mistakes are made.

So if you’re emotionally overwhelmed , it’s important to get to that space where you can breathe and more importantly to THINK. When it comes to something as important as fighting cancer, having the brainpower to think clearly can mean the difference between life and death.

So you may be asking,

How do I do this? How do I process the fear, sadness and anxiety?

I remembered my diagnosis like it was yesterday and when I got the shocking news, I literally couldn’t stop crying for days. My eyes were a puffy mess and if someone tried to talk to me I would literally start bawling. I was so sad that my life had taken a turn for the worst.

But after a couple of days something incredible happened.

I realised that no matter how hard or how long I cried nothing was going to change the fact that I have cancer.


I have cancer.

And if you’re reading this…

You too have cancer.

Diagnosed with the Big C is a tectonic shift in anyone’s life. Nothing will be the same again.

The sooner you accept this reality, the sooner you’ll have the white space to breathe,

….and think,

….and make the best decisions,

….and oversee everything.

The Paradox of Acceptance.

Life can really suck - and getting a diagnosis of cancer is just one of those moments. Emotions aren’t our enemy. Fear, worry and sadness are all normal responses to cancer. But rather than letting our emotions rules us, we can give new meaning to the emotions we feel and use it to fuel our fighting spirit.

However, if…

… you can’t even wrap the idea that you have cancer,

…you can’t fathom that you’ve been diagnosed,

then you’re likely in resistance mode.

The longer you RESIST your current circumstance - the more you end up inflicting emotional pain on yourself over and over again.

Resistance is kind of like you shaking a soda can - the pressure builds up as the gases inside expands. Resistance is the pressure inside that creates panic and anxiety.

So how do we relieve that internal conflict? Acceptance is really an important life tool we need to adopt.

The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance,

some form of unconscious resistance to what is.” - Eckhart Tolle

But here’s the thing. As humans, we are conditioned to avoid negative things that cause us pain and suffering. So accepting our present circumstance goes against our human nature - which is why this stuff isn’t easy. No one wants to accept that they have cancer, face gruelling treatment and possible death.

Therefore it’s important to understand the Paradox of Acceptance - that is the more you lean into the discomfort and embrace the negative circumstance, the less pain you will feel.

Acceptance to things that we can’t change can obliterate any and all emotional suffering.

Conversely, the bigger the wall you put up between yourself and your reality, the greater internal conflict you will feel.

Emotional suffering and turmoil are not mental states to make rational medical decisions.

This isn’t the frame of mind you want to be in and expect to win the fight.

What Acceptance Isn’t.

By no means does accepting your circumstance means that you’re being passive - that you’ve put your hands up and resign your life to fate and to luck.

It’s quite the opposite.

Acceptance about something that you cannot change AKA your cancer diagnosis, allows you to make a radical shift in thinking- from a “WHY ME” type of questioning to a “WHAT’S NEXT” type of mentality.

I had certainly asked those why me questions and it goes something like this.

“Why did I get cancer?

“Out of the billions of people in the world, why did I get cancer?”

“I’m only 29, why did I get cancer so young?”

This type of thinking and narrative that we ask the universe is adopting victim mentality. Victims are weak and passive. When it comes to cancer, I refuse to be a victim of bad luck or circumstance. So I stopped the why me questioning. Simple as that.

I fully accepted that I was a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer. I then reframed my line of thinking to:

Cancer is simply a set of physical and mental challenges that I have to get through.

If you commit to moving on from a victim mentality - then you’re in the right headspace to take on the challenges of beating cancer and you’ve built a strong foundation of inner strength that will set you up for the road ahead.

If you’re newly diagnosed with cancer and feel you need to be in the right headspace to fight cancer then I urge you to download my 7 Crucial Mindset Shifts to Limit Worry, Fear and Anxiety HERE!