Healthcare professionals use different names to describe cancer that has advanced beyond early stages, including advanced, secondary, metastatic, terminal and progressive cancer. These terms may refer to cancer that is unlikely to be cured.
When you hear this news about your lymphoma, you may feel like you can’t take it all in. Some people have described their experience by saying, “You just go completely numb at first and you can’t think. And everything just sort of starts spinning around you.” You don’t have to pretend everything is okay or try to hide how you feel. These feelings can come and go along with others such as:
- Shock and disbelief: these common reactions can make you feel like time has stopped.
- Anger: you may feel anger toward yourself, your family, doctors, at the world, your god or fate. These feelings can come from the loss of control over your life and cause you to lay blame for what is happening to you.
- Anxiety and fear: you may fear dying or feel fear of the effects of the lymphoma and its treatments.
- Sadness and grief: you may mourn the losses caused by the illness (what you can physically do, a job or a planned trip). Or you may feel anticipatory grief, in which you begin to mourn death before it happens.
- Denial: you might reject the diagnosis or what the doctors are telling you about the illness.
- Guilt and regret: you may feel bad about things you think you should or should not have done in your life.
- Depression: this includes feelings of sadness, hopelessness and tearfulness. If these feelings become worse, last a long time and start to take over your daily life, they could be a sign of clinical depression. Depression can be treated.
Over time you may come to accept what is happening that the lymphoma is unlikely to be cured and will likely lead to death. Acceptance does not mean giving up on life. Rather, it allows you to take control of your life and focus on what’s most important to you.