The time immediately after a major diagnosis can be chaotic, physically and emotionally. There are doctors’ appointments to schedule, family and work logistics to settle, and treatments to consider. It’s also a stressful and anxious time as you ponder the road ahead and worry about the outcomes. And with so much focus on other things, it can be easy to lose track of taking time for self-care.
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Self-care, especially when diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), is a key part of processing your diagnosis and managing stress levels throughout your treatment. To get a better understanding of why self-care is so important for people being treated for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and how they can best practice it, we spoke to oncology social worker Ilana Spaulding, LSW.
After your DLBCL diagnosis
Once you receive the diagnosis, you’re likely to go through a range of emotions, including shock. The 24 to 48 hours after will also likely be an emotionally turbulent time, and self-care is important to help you get through this.
Lean on a loved one
The day or two immediately following the diagnosis can be particularly hard on a person, so it’s important to have a close family member or friend to lean on for immediate support. Spaulding advises, “Choose someone who you trust, who you’re comfortable to be vulnerable with and allow yourself to feel everything you’re feeling, which can run the gamut.”
Don’t forget your basic needs
Everyone handles a cancer diagnosis differently, but however you react, you need to continue focusing on your basic needs, like:
- Take a shower.
- Stay hydrated.
- Eat healthily.
- Go to bed at your regular time to get a good night’s sleep.
“It sounds simple,” says Spaulding, “but when you’re able to take of your basic needs, it’s going to help your overall emotional and physical well-being while you’re in such a state of shock and vulnerability.”
Managing stress and self-care during treatment
As you move forward after those first post-diagnosis days, it’s time to turn attention to making a plan for care and support during your treatment. And self-care should be part of it.
Broaden your support circle
As you absorb and process your diagnosis, you may feel more comfortable reaching out to more people you trust, like additional family members and close friends, to broaden your support network. “If you’re comfortable, sharing about your new diagnosis with your extended support system can be a reminder that you are cared for by many during this challenging time,” says Spaulding.
That network can also help you with your care plan, arranging rides to appointments, meal deliveries or just sending you cards to brighten your day, she adds. “Knowing you have that network can help you feel encouraged as you’re getting started on your treatment journey.”
Continue certain activities
Spaulding also recommends thinking about what brought you calm and joy in previously stressful situations and revisiting those routines. That can include:
- Meditation or mindfulness.
- Spending time outside (like taking a nature walk or spending time in your garden).
These activities can aid both your emotional and physical health, a vital combo.
If you’ve never tried these activities before but think you could benefit from them during this time, it may be worth it. “If an activity is safe and accessible and you’re interested, try it out,” suggests Spaulding.
Whether you’re already in therapy or aren’t currently seeing a therapist, Spaulding shares that counseling can be a helpful resource on your cancer journey. “Working with a mental health provider can help you to develop and refine coping skills to best manage emotions and challenges that may arise throughout your treatment experience,” she says. “It can help you process and healthily move through those emotions, whether that be an adjustment to diagnosis, anxiety or feelings of depression.”
Other ways to practice self-care during treatment
Whether it’s during treatments or during your time at home between appointments, there are several other smaller ways you can practice self-care and relieve some of your anxiety. These include:
- Listening to music.
- Gentle exercise as approved by your doctor.
- Maintaining a calming routine at night.
- Maintaining any spiritual practices as you go through treatment.
- Regular talks, in person, via phone or by video, with friends and family.
Spaulding also recommends looking into wellness services where you’re receiving treatment. Many healthcare systems provide complementary self-care services for patients, including massages, facials, Reiki and reflexology. “Engaging in these services allows you to feel like you’re proactively taking care of your body,” she notes.
And, finally, relying on your care team and your social worker that your healthcare provider offers is one more good measure. “Oncology social workers are available to help you navigate these difficult, challenging times. Treatment for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma isn’t just a physical experience, but also an emotional and psychological one,” Spaulding recognizes. “These resources are an important piece of your treatment experience.”