Diagnosed With Cancer-Do This First!

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Scott: Doctor, if you're diagnosed with cancer, if someone's diagnosed with cancer, what are the first couple of things that that person should do?  Because that diagnosis is pretty scary.  People panic a lot of times.  What are the first few things that they should do?

Dr. Isaac Eliaz: What a good question.  The first thing that people should do, is what we just talked about.  Take a deep breath.  There is rarely a true crisis in life and even in medicine.  Rarely.  Take a deep breath and just connect with where you are.  For patients who had cancer, they will never forget the moment of their diagnosis.  Their priorities, what was important to them, completely shifts in one second.  It's an experience that I think nobody has, can have, unless they had cancer.  You know as part of my practice being an integrative cancer doctor, I visualize myself getting cancer, again and again in different... and I play it out.  How it will feel, how it will feel for me emotionally.  I even will play out how it will feel if I'm getting chemotherapy, or radiation.  Because then I can really, at least pretend to understand the patient deeper.  I have this somatic experience how it will feel.  So it's a part of... that's why it's so important to give the cancer patient space and support.  So one of the issues... why this question is so important, Scott, is that usually when the patient is diagnosed and goes to the oncologist, they just switch one set of priorities and fears with another set of fears.  Go do a scan, do a blood test, do this treatment and you're going to live for another three years, there is 50 percent chance.  

The first thing, you take a deep breath.  You use this rare moment, I call it the peeling of the masks.  The bluffs are gone.  The patient, you or whoever has the experience, is facing their mortality.  Their end of life.  It's a profound experience and opportunity.  You sit in it.  You feel it.  People freak out, people get angry, people are upset.  It's ok.  Be honest with yourself.  All of this is happening right there in the diagnosis.  

One of the common things in new age Western culture is the concept of positive thinking.  You have to think positive.  You have to think positive.  So you have people that have been negative and upset and angry all their life.  And finally they got cancer.  And now you talk to them... 'oh I'm thinking positive'.  Well it's really a catch-22.  It's a lot of negative thinking covered by a very thin layer of unauthentic positive thinking.  Not a good idea.  You're dishonest with yourself, and with other people.  Other people know that you're not feeling great, but they can't tell you.  It's a lot of waste of energy.  So the other part is be honest with yourself.  

Then find a support system.  When addressing cancer, you need a team.  And in a team there are certain people that function for certain purposes.  If a woman has breast cancer, she wants to have a... she should find a good surgeon if sh's going to have surgery.  She's going to have breast implants or reconstruction?  Find a good plastic surgeon.  But if you're expecting the surgeon to be the person to support you in your psychological journey, psychospiritual journey, dietary advice, you're up to some disappointment.  But if you know that... but the most important thing for the surgeon is to know how to do the surgery.  So the other part is create a team.  And within this team, find one authoritative person you can trust.  Authoritative meaning not somebody that's going to tell you what to do, but somebody that knows enough.  And ideally and integrative medicine person that can be there and does not have an agenda.  They're not trying to push you to do radiation or surgery or just intravenous therapy.  They're there for you.  And you can be open to them and they will support you in every way.  So that's the beginning.  Once you do it, you are ready to go.  The other part is before you do any procedure, any treatment, collect as much information as possible.  Lab tests, prepare different kits, if you're going to have surgery, to get tissue for chemo sensitivity, for immune essays.  Look at different risk factors.  Try to understand, what is the road, what is the journey that got you to the place where you are.  And then you can change it afterwards.  Once you start your treatments, things change, the biochemistry changes, the tissue changes.  You no longer can have a clearer picture, really, of what's happening.


Dr. Isaac Eliaz recommends four key things to do once you get what can often be a frightening diagnosis. Find out the important first step, and why it's so important. Then Dr. Eliaz mentions some other important tips on your journey through treatment.

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