Hearing the news Hearing that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, even if you previously suspected it, can come as a tremendous shock. It can’t be absorbed all at once. You go through a process in which, given the right kind of support, you gradually recover your sense of being able to make choices, as opposed to being overwhelmed by a tide of events over which you have no say or control. Even though it may feel as though nothing has changed in your physical body, you are already in mental and emotional pain, needing to find comfort and hope. The first step, however, is to really “hear” what your doctor has told you as you let it sink in. Although you may never have had to cope with this much bad news before, it’s likely that you already have relevant life experience. For example, the dead car battery: You’re rushing to work or an appointment, you get into the car, and turn the key. A muffled grinding sound results…What do you do? It may sound ridiculous, but you actually go through a process: Denial: let’s just turn the key a few more times, maybe it will work. The battery can’t be flat! Anger: Why must this happen now, of all times? This is unfair! Who wasted the battery? Bargaining: Please, car, just start this once and I’ll get you a new battery later. Depression: It’s no use. I’m not going to make it. My day is ruined. I’ll probably get the sack. Acceptance: OK, it’s dead. At least I’m still at home. I’ll call work and make excuses, then I’ll phone for help with this car. So this is a familiar process for people who are faced with life-altering bad news – though the intensity of our reaction will depend on the extent of the loss we are facing. Even in the situation of the dead battery, there is a huge difference between being late for work, and failing to show up for an exam or our child’s special moment. Where real loss and grief are involved, that grief response is personal and individual: no one can tell you how you “should” react. We all have different personalities, life experiences and coping styles, and that’s OK! The process of moving into acceptance of a changed situation has been given the shorthand T.E.A.R. This stands for: To accept the reality of the situation, allowing yourself to believe it Experience the pain, giving expression to your feelings Adjust to the new reality, re-organising your life and commitments to reflect the changes Re-invest in the new reality, identifying opportunities to live more deeply into your values Your coping personality The pattern of adjustment...