A cancer diagnosis is life-changing. Here's how you can reclaim yourself.

A cancer diagnosis brings with it a flood of thoughts and emotions that can be difficult to handle.

None of us are prepared to hear that we or a loved one have a life-altering disease with a potentially tragic outcome, and the uncertainty that follows a cancer diagnosis is scary.

Since 1 in 3 of us will experience a cancer diagnosis in our lifetime according to the American Cancer Society, it's good to know what to expect.


Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash

Dr. Jennifer Lee, PhD, a Licensed Psychologist at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, says that it's normal to feel upset, angry, sad, or numb upon hearing the words “It's cancer." “Many people's initial response to a cancer diagnosis is shock and fear," Lee says. “The shock and fear should gradually decrease, but it takes time. As families get more information about what the diagnosis means and their specific treatment plan, many families begin to shift to a more action-oriented approach to take steps to address the illness and symptoms."

Some of that action includes purposefully engaging in self-care — doing things that can help you feel more connected to yourself as you go through your cancer journey.

Self-care for cancer patients goes beyond seeing doctors and taking medications.

"Self-care" can feel like a loaded term when you're overwhelmed, but that's when caring for yourself is most vital. Many people living with cancer will see a therapist to help them deal with the emotional and psychological toll that cancer can take, but there are other things patients can do along with that to help them feel more like themselves.

Keep living your life.

Photo by Olivia Colacicco/Unsplash

It can be tempting to put your life on hold while you're dealing with cancer, but Dr. Lee says that maintaining as much of a normal life as possible is one of the most important things cancer-affected families can do.

"This may require creating a 'new normal' for yourself after diagnosis," she says, "but be patient with yourself as you make these changes. If your treatment plan allows you to work or go to school, continue to do so as much as you can. This helps to alleviate financial stress, but also can be a good way to remind yourself that you are still living life while being treated for cancer."

Do the things that bring you joy, no matter how small they are.

Little things can make a big difference, especially when you're facing a major health challenge. Dr. Lee suggests regularly scheduling activities that help you relax or make you happy, such as brief exercise(doctor permitting), engaging in spiritual practices, or getting together with friends. Even something as simple as scheduling a spa session or taking regular walks in nature can help you feel more connected to yourself.

For some people living with cancer, finding ways to address how their body is changing can help boost their well-being. That begins with understanding how cancer and cancer treatments can affect you physically and making adjustments. For example, chemo and radiation can cause dry hair, eyebrow loss, dry skin and discoloration, and changes to nails and cuticles. It can also cause side effects that make you feel ill or uncomfortable.

Finding people who can help you manage those side effects and changes is important, which is why Walgreens created their Feel More Like You service. Specially trained beauty consultants and pharmacists work with individuals with cancer to help manage the internal and external changes that they're experiencing, offering individualized guidance and recommendations to help them look and feel their best. The service is available at 3,000 Walgreens locations nationwide —and it's free.

Connect with others — especially others in the cancer community.

Cancer can feel isolating sometimes, but it doesn't have to be. Dr. Lee recommends staying in touch with supportive people and communities while you're going through treatment and recovery. That might include your friends and family, your professional or religious community or local cancer support groups.

Dr. Lee says that others who have cancer can be a great resource as you go through treatment. "Connect with other people with cancer," she says, "especially if they are going through or have been through a similar treatment. Their expert tips and insights can be helpful, validating, and supportive." The Cancer Support Community website has a host of resources for people looking for such connections.

Indulge people's offers to help.

Photo by Emma Frances Logan/Unsplash

Caring for yourself sometimes means letting others care for you. Many people don't know what to do when a friend, family member, or coworker is diagnosed with cancer, but most people truly want to help. Dr. Lee suggests taking people up on their offers.

"If people offer to help, let them help, even if it is something simple like picking up groceries, taking care of your pets or helping to manage childcare," she says. "Not only does it help you, it helps your friends and family feel like they can do something to help you get through this."

Cancer diagnosis and treatment can be physically and emotionally draining, which is why self-care is so important.

There are also millions of people who understand what you're going through and who have the knowledge and skills to help you through your cancer journey. There are loads of people out there who you can call upon all along that journey.

But don't forget to do small things for yourself too. You might be surprised at how a simple thing like a meditation session or a trip to a museum or a new beauty routine can boost your spirits. A person with cancer is a person first and foremost, so as you treat the cancer, make sure you're caring for yourself as well, whatever that means to you.

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Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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Culture
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

RELATED: This sneaky guide dog is too pure for this world. A hilarious video proves it.

The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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