Finding Community Support When Getting a Terminal Diagnosis

Janice Cowden is a passionate patient advocate living with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer since 2016. Janice feels very fortunate to have No Evidence of Disease (NED) after having a complete response to her first line of treatment in 2016. She was able to share with how she successfully found community support early on in her diagnosis and how those who are newly diagnosed, can do the same.

Social and emotional support

For anyone going through a cancer diagnosis, there may be a huge range of emotions and feelings coming to the surface. During this time, your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical health.1,2

While it can feel overwhelming, try to process and express these emotions as they come up. Remember, you do not have to do it alone.1,2

Social and emotional support is essential to this process. It can take many forms, and each person’s needs at any given time will be different. Here are some ways you can get the support you need:1,2

  • Reach out to family and friends.
  • Share your feelings with a professional, like a counselor or mental health professional.
  • Seek support from a spiritual or religious leader in your community.
  • Join a cancer support group.
  • Talk to a hospital chaplain.

If you are unsure of where to go for support, ask your healthcare team for resources. They can connect you with cancer support groups, a licensed social worker or counselor, and other resources that can help you cope.1

It is important for those who are diagnosed with MBC, particularly early on, can connect with others who just "get it."


Receiving a terminal diagnosis

If you or someone you love has received a terminal diagnosis, it is life-changing. Just know that there are people out there who can help you navigate this challenge.

You may feel overwhelmed by all the emotional, physical, financial, and practical issues that come with end-of-life care and planning. Talking to your friends and family about your diagnosis may be very difficult. This is all understandable and normal. First, give yourself time to process and grieve.3,4

When you are ready to think about next steps, ask your healthcare team what you can expect moving forward.


Coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis

It is entirely normal to experience a wide range of feelings after receiving a terminal diagnosis. These emotions are hard and uncomfortable to deal with, both for the person with the terminal diagnosis and for their family and friends. Emotions may include:4

  • Grief
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Anger and frustration
  • Relief
  • Peace

You may want to bury your head in the sand and ignore these feelings. But there is power in accepting and coming to terms with a terminal illness. Remember that this process is wildly different for every person. Everything you are feeling is valid. And it takes time to cope.4

Expressing your emotions and talking about what you are going through can help you feel more at peace with what is happening and can prepare you for what is next.4

When you are ready, have a conversation with your family and healthcare team about how you want to use your time. With their help, create a plan that leaves you feeling empowered and content. You may want to consider planning for palliative or hospice care. Having an intentional plan can help you feel more at ease and in control, no matter what comes next.3,4


What's next?

We are so thankful that Janice shared her experience with us! In her words, "If you are newly diagnosed know that your path will uniquely your own."


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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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