Being diagnosed with melanoma is a difficult moment for anyone. After coming to terms with their diagnosis, the next concern many patients have is how they will tell their loved ones and the next steps afterwards. Dealing with stress and the practical and financial aspects of coping with skin cancer are concerns patients will deal with on some level. The following questions and answers will help someone with melanoma take the next steps after receiving their prognosis.
What should I do when I discover I have melanoma?
Discovering you have skin cancer is one of the most stressful events you can experience, and it is natural to want advice about treatment and upcoming changes. It is important to talk to your doctor and be thorough in your questioning. Different stages of melanoma mean different treatments and levels of severity, so it is important to be clear about what stage your melanoma is at. Open communication about medicines, treatment, how you feel, and the likely outcomes are all important parts of the process. Your doctor may have a range of treatment options, and together, you will discuss a plan that suits you.
How do I handle the emotions that come with my diagnosis?
Having melanoma is a stressful situation for anyone, and it's difficult to prepare for. It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, angry, frightened and that this is a problem beyond your control. Depression and anxiety often accompany a serious illness, and it's important to acknowledge this and seek help for either of these conditions. While these emotions are understandable, there is support out there to help you through these times.
Talking to loved ones or a medical professional can help with coping and building resilience, courage and strength. Support groups that specifically focus on melanoma sufferers are also available, offering face-to-face and online options.
How do I tell others about my diagnosis?
When the right time to tell others about a serious illness varies from person to person. Be prepared for your loved ones to be as shocked and upset as you were when you first discovered your diagnosis. Though there will be the temptation to sugarcoat the situation when telling a family member or friend about your melanoma, it is best to use straightforward language and be completely honest. This will be difficult, but it will help everyone cope and accept things in the long run.
Your family members and friends will naturally want to offer their love and support and ask if there are ways they can help. Having company or a friend to talk to and have fun with can help maintain positivity, resilience, hope, and determination during this difficult period. It is also okay to ask for help from friends and family and let them know when you're struggling or need help.
How should I tell my children about my illness?
When it comes to difficult news, the parental instincts can kick in and make us not want to tell our kids. However, it's best they hear this information directly from you. Secrecy can lead to hurt feelings and trust issues, and it also underestimates how perceptive a child can really be. Be open with them about the reality of the situation and allow them to ask questions about your condition. This has several benefits, including cementing trust and helping your child understand the situation. It is also important to tell your child that it is normal to feel sad, fearful or confused during this time, but by being open with them, you can support them through their feelings.
For more in-depth information on discussing a cancer diagnosis with a child, we recommend looking at this guide from cancer.org.
What side effects can I expect from the treatment?
We understand this is an overwhelming time for you and your loved ones, and the last thing you want to hear about is the potential side effects of treatment. However, knowing what to expect will help relieve some of the anxiety. Some questions you should ask your doctor include:
- What side effects can I expect?
- Is there any potential risk from this treatment, therapy, or medication?
- How should I deal with any side effects?
- Which side effects are normal, and which are emergencies?
- Who should I see if the side effects become too many?
If possible, it's a good idea to keep a journal that details your symptoms, side effects, and any worries you have. We have all left a doctor's office only to remember something we forgot to mention, so having everything written down will ensure everyone thoroughly understands the situation.
While we tend to think of side effects as physical, they include emotional pain (for example, anxiety and depression), bad thoughts, hospital bills, tension with family members, and financial hardship.
How will I handle the financial costs of treatment?
Money troubles are the leading cause of anxiety and stress for Australians, causing problems in relationships, careers, and day-to-day life. An unexpected diagnosis can lead to finances being stretched, and the stress of paying these bills can put a lot of pressure on people. Cancer treatment, like surgery or chemotherapy, can be expensive, especially if you don't have insurance. In some cases, it can lead to patients not completing treatment or neglecting care. Talk to your medical professional if you have concerns about finances, as there are resources out there to help you budget and cover the cost of treatment.
How can I care for a loved one with melanoma?
When a loved one is diagnosed with melanoma, it is stressful and emotionally challenging in a whole different way. The friends and family members who care, support, and love are referred to as caregivers, and it can quickly become a full-time job. It can involve helping your loved one with daily activities, sorting out bills, taking them to appointments, being at the doctor's with them, or just being there to lend support.
While it's easy to feel guilt about feeling any negative emotions while looking after a loved one, it's a perfectly normal response to a difficult situation. Depression, stress, and anxiety are common for caregivers, and you should seek help if you're experiencing any mental discomfort.
What can I do to help cope with the stress of melanoma?
Look after your overall health by eating well, exercising regularly, and performing activities you find relaxing. Finding time to enjoy your favourite things, whether that is reading, watching movies, doing crafts, going out for meals, or whatever your favourite hobby may be, is great for your mental health. Mental well-being is a vital part of your treatment, and it's easy to forget this when dealing with another illness. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of distress, depression, and anxiety, which can be any of the following:
- Struggling to sleep or feeling exhausted all the time
- Not enjoying things as much as you used to
- Constant negative thoughts, especially if they involve self-harm or suicide.
There are also support groups for those who've been diagnosed with melanoma. Click here to find out more about how you can access these services.
SunDoctors can help with your skin cancer treatment.
Being diagnosed with melanoma is never easy, and there will be times when it all feels like too much. However, you don't need to go it alone. Friends, family members, and the medical community are here to help you through your treatment. Discussing your situation brings attention to your needs and allows you to decide the next steps you need to take.