Hearing a doctor say "You have cancer" is devastating news. After the initial shock, this abrupt change in your life affects you in many ways. Most obvious is the physical fact of having an illness, which compromises your health. The other consequence is its emotional impact.

Physically, cancer treatment such as chemotherapy may leave you tired and keep you from enjoying your usual activities. The amount of fatigue varies with the type of cancer and treatment and with the individual person. Although this fatigue can be draining, it isn't usually constant, and there are ways to help you cope.

In some cases, fatigue is related to anemia. If so, certain medications may help with anemia. Talk to your doctor about whether this could be an option for you.

To boost your morale, book some special time to enjoy doing things just for you when you feel up to it. Whether it's taking a walk in the park, playing with your children, doing yoga, painting, or going to a movie, it can all help. The pleasure you gain from the simple things in life may be just what you need the next time you begin to feel emotionally discouraged. Many people have also found meditation to be helpful in dealing with the physical and emotional stresses of cancer.

Coping with the cosmetic side effects of cancer treatment can also be stressful, since it affects self-image. Hair loss due to chemotherapy, for instance, may be devastating. Likewise, changes in skin tone and weight can be very distressing. Luckily, there's help: a group called Look Good, Feel Better (www.lgfb.com) is dedicated to promoting a positive self-image for women with cancer. The program, with the support of private companies and many volunteers, provides women with advice on dealing with the effects of cancer and chemotherapy on their appearance.

Asking for help can help you get through difficult times when you're coping with cancer. There are many sources of help and support, including family and friends, your health care team, spiritual advisors, and mental health professionals.

You may also find it helpful to join a cancer support group to talk to others affected by cancer. You may just need someone to talk to, or maybe you could use some help with grocery shopping, cooking, or getting to appointments. Don't be afraid to ask people to do something specific to help you. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength. It means you know what you need to do to cope.