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Advice for Newly Diagnosed Lung Cancer Patients

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Published on November 25, 2019

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t panic and try not to listen to negative comments. 
  • After the initial shock, learn as much as you can about your diagnosis and options.
  • Coping skills usually come with time.  

A lung cancer diagnosis can be shocking and overwhelming. How can patients and families cope? What do newly diagnosed patients need to know? Patient Power’s Laura Levaas talks with Dr. Ross Camidge about advice for those starting their journey with lung cancer. Watch to hear both expert and patient perspectives on managing initial reactions, learning coping skills and making informed decisions about treatment. 

This is a Patient Empowerment Network program produced by Patient Power. We thank Celgene Corporation, Novartis, and Pfizer for their support. These organizations have no editorial control. It is produced solely by Patient Power.

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We love your wonderful videos and coverage of lung cancer meetings! It is great that updates from conferences can be shared further for those unable to attend. Thank you for all you do to ensure that a high level of information can be provided online.

— Jo from Changing Lung Cancer

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Transcript |

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Laura Levaas:                

What’s the best advice you can give someone who is newly diagnosed with cancer? 

Dr. Camidge:          

Well, the first thing is, for those of you who’ve seen The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the first thing is, don’t panic.

Laura Levaas:                

That’s good advice. That’s good advice.

Dr. Camidge:          

The thing is, what you do is, you get diagnosed. And there’s a period of time where the room – you  just can’t hear anything, and you feel distant from it. And what you’ve gotta do is, you – absolutely, you can wallow in self-pity for a period of time. And then you have to get up and move on. And that’s when you say, okay, this is a problem like anything else in life. And I will figure out the best of all possible solutions.

Laura Levaas:                

Absolutely. Conversely, Terry wanted to know, what is the biggest mistake patients make in decision-making about treatment?

Dr. Camidge:          

Well, listening to people who say you only have three months to live.

Laura Levaas:                

Yeah. That’s not good.

Dr. Camidge:          

I think perhaps believing that everything you see about cancer on the TV – which is everyone who’s bald and throwing up – must automatically apply to you. Or that that person down the street who died from a brain tumor automatically applies to you. I mean, so, cancer isn’t cancer. There are different diseases. And until you can find out, like you said, your peer group, you don’t know what the truth will be for you. And then you’re still gonna make your own rules up anyway.

 

Laura Levaas:                

That’s true. That’s true. And I was thinking the other day, my needs when I was first diagnosed are very different than what they are now a few years later. Because in the beginning, I didn’t have coping skills. And I just didn’t know what to do. But you do develop them over time. And I remember a woman telling me, “Oh, you’ll figure it out.” And that made me really mad. But I see the wisdom...

Dr. Camidge:          

...yeah.

Laura Levaas:                

Yeah. I see the wisdom in that now because you do figure it out over time.

Dr. Camidge:          

But how did you figure it out? How did you develop those coping skills? 

Laura Levaas:                

I think it was helpful, oddly enough, that I wasn’t allowed to drive and that I was in such a bad state. Because it allowed me to sort of withdraw from society for a while, withdraw from my work, withdraw from relationship drama. Because I ultimately ended up breaking up with my partner because he wasn’t capable of handling what I was going through, and he wasn’t supportive. So, all of the things that were familiar to me, like my job, my apartment, I retreated from all of that. And at the time, it sucked. But now, I’m like, that allowed me to have a perspective that was removed from everything. And I just...

Dr. Camidge:          

...how old was your son at the time when you were diagnosed?

Laura Levaas:                

Four.

Dr. Camidge:          

So, I mean, there’s an element of where you can withdraw from society, but you’ve got a 4-year-old.

Laura Levaas:                

That’s right.

Dr. Camidge:          

So, how do you deal with that?

Laura Levaas:                

Yeah. Well, I ended up moving in with my sister. Because at that time, I couldn’t drive, and I couldn’t take care of myself. So, I did rely really heavily on her. And their daughter is the same age as my son. 

So, they were going to school together. I relied very heavily on them, and I’m so thankful for that because that allowed me to just rest and heal. Because in the beginning – not to get too far in the weeds – but I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t be on my phone. I couldn’t be on the computer. Just no attention span whatsoever because of whole brain, I think. So, retreating from everything actually was good for me. And I’m also kind of a loner. So, I liked it, being alone too, oddly enough.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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