Rules of Engagement

From the time people hear the word “cancer”, both those diagnosed and their loved ones receive an overwhelming amount of information that requires quick decision making and navigating a complex healthcare system.

This constant barrage of information creates anxiety as people move from one urgent decision to the next without stopping to think about the bigger picture or how to negotiate each step along an unknown journey.

If this sounds like you, there is a solution! It begins by taking a step back to think about how a cancer diagnosis will affect your life, or the life of your loved one, and prioritizing what’s really important.

You can then set the ‘rules of engagement’ for how you approach new information, which gives you more control over how you’ll deal with uncertainty, now and in the future. In fact, once you develop a system, you can easily fall back on it again and again to reduce your anxiety and make decisions more confidently.

This framework can be as rigid or as flexible as you like, and you can always modify it according to your most pressing needs. This means you may need to experiment to see what works best for you. There are no right or wrong answers – only those that feel right on a personal level.

So how do you start defining your own rules of engagement?

Start by considering who, what, why, where, and how. For example, what will you need to know to make an intelligent decision? And how much information is necessary to get a complete picture?

Some people are natural information seekers; the more they know about a particular topic, the better they feel about making decisions. Others are easily overwhelmed by an influx of information, which increases their anxiety, and decreases their ability to take action.

Understanding your own relationship to information will help you determine how much to seek and consume on any given day and allows you to feel more in control and better able to make sound decisions.

Think about what you want to know most about your own diagnosis and treatment, or that of a loved one. Are you concerned about how side effects might affect your quality of life? Or are you simply determined to reduce the risk of recurrence?

These are just two examples of what might be most important to you, which you can then communicate to your care team.

  • September 22, 2017