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Waiting for tests to take place, or for the results of those tests, can be a difficult time. And then you might be waiting to hear what kind of treatment you’ll be having, or when that treatment will start.

Wherever you find yourself, as someone who’s experiencing symptoms or been diagnosed with an illness, waiting will be inevitable at some point and we understand just how hard that can be.

Our counselling team say that waiting is one of the common themes they discuss with patients. Many of you may want to talk this through with one of our fantastic nurses on our nurse-led Support Line, who may refer you on to counselling if you need it. However, there isn’t one straightforward answer to making this feel easier but the following ideas and resources might be useful for you to consider.

  • Firstly, please know that worrying is completely normal in these kinds of situations. Don’t expect yourself to carry on as though nothing is happening. Something may be on the horizon and because us human beings are innate problem-solvers, your brain is trying to identify the problem so that it can find the solution. Giving yourself a hard time for worrying, is only going to make things feel worse so be gentle with yourself and accept that this is If you can be quite tough on yourself, now is really the time to start practicing self compassion and here’s a helpful video on that

  • Hold perspective and the wider picture in mind. Often symptoms can indicate a wide variety of illnesses, and many tests are done to rule things OUT of the equation, before ending up at the point of diagnosis. Try to remind yourself that a test does not mean a diagnosis; at this stage the medical professionals are investigating and considering a wide range of possibilities so that they can work out the best way to help and treat you.

  • Take control of the situation where you can. Prepare for your appointments with healthcare professionals by writing down anything that you want them to know, or questions that you have got going around in your mind. Take a notepad with you so that you can write down what they say, or you could even think about using the record function on your phone (obviously check that they’re ok with you doing that) so that you can listen back to the conversation afterwards. You might be worried about not understanding all the medical terms that you may hear – this is a useful guide to the different tests you might encounter.

  • Steer clear of unreliable sources of information. It can be tempting to dive straight into an internet search for your symptoms, but try not to do this unless you’re going to a trusted source. You may be interested to read our “myth busting” information about some of the common myths surrounding causes and treatments of cancer. If you can’t fine what you need on our website, please have a look at Cancer Research's website or Macmillan's website which are both really reliable sources of information.

  • Similarly, friends and family can be a great source of support and while advice may be well intentioned, it’s not always going to be medically accurate or based on the latest research. Double check any advice you hear with a trusted source such as your GP, as they know you and your medical history.

  • Do what works for you. Only you’ll know whether it feels better to keep busy seeing friends, working or doing the hobbies and activities you love, or whether it’ll suit you better to slow right down and take some time out or away from your normal day to day life and activities. Some people find it really helps to keep exercising, doing tasks around the house and socialising as usual whilst others find they need to scale back and adopt a more gentle pace. Wherever you find yourself, that’s ok – it’s your body and your decision to make.

  • Do keep to some kind of routine though; however that looks. Go to bed when you would usually, eat meals as you would usually (unless advised otherwise by a medical professional) and if you don’t already, try to get outside regularly. It’s widely evidenced that being outside is beneficial for our mental health at any time, but particularly when life can feel challenging.

  • Reach out for connection. We understand that you might not want to worry others with your worries, but lean on your support networks – they’ll want to help you. Now is not the time to bottle up your feelings. Sharing worries can help them feel less overwhelming and allows others to be there for you. If you don’t have friends and family to speak to, then ask your GP if there are any support groups in your area or think about online communities of people who may have gone through very similar things such as Macmillan Online Community or Cancer Research UK's Cancer Chat.

  • Express yourself. Maybe you like to draw. Or used to keep diaries when you were younger. Writing or drawing are great ways of getting some of the worries out of your head and onto paper. The benefits of journalling are widely recognised and the good news is that there really isn’t any right or wrong way to do it; it’s only for you so however you like to do it, that’s the perfect way for you! 

While our counselling service only works with people with an agreed and identified referral from health care professionals, we have recently launched our therapeutic virtual support groups which may help you. You can find out more and register your interest here.

If you or someone you love has been affected by cancer, our free Support Line is there for you. Just call 0808 808 1010