A serious illness can lead to uncertainty in many areas of your life, and this may be a cause of some of the emotions that you have. Feeling that we have some control over our lives gives us a sense of security and allows us to enjoy things that we do. It’s natural to want to know what is likely to happen to us, so that we can plan for our future.

When an illness is diagnosed, it can take away your sense of security and control and this can be very frightening. Uncertainty can be one of the hardest things to deal with and can cause a lot of tension. You may find that you feel irritable, angry and frightened. Sometimes it can help to find out as much as possible about the illness and what may happen. It is best to discuss this with the doctors and nurses who know you and are involved in your treatment.

Often, it’s difficult to know whether treatment will be successful and whether the illness can be cured. Once treatment has ended you may be left wondering whether it will come back. This uncertainty can make it very hard to plan ahead and you may wish that you could know for sure what will happen.

Unfortunately, it is often impossible to know whether a person has been permanently cured of their illness. If someone's illness has come back it is often difficult to say exactly what effect it will have and how long they will live. You may find that your doctors and nurses can't answer your questions fully or that their answers sound vague. Many people find this uncertainty very hard to cope with.

If you find that the uncertainty is a continuing problem and you feel overwhelmed by it, it may help to talk to a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you to find ways of coping with the feelings and emotions that it causes.

If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness and think that you may die, sorting out your affairs so that things are in order and you know that friends or family will be alright can also be helpful. This may be very difficult and painful for you, members of your family and friends.

Our information in the Planning for the Future section may be useful.

Condition-specific information

Further information on conditions that may be affecting you or those around you:

Support Groups

Visit the NHS inform Support Services Directory to search for local organisations that may help with the issues you are facing:

Last updated: 29 March 2012

This content was supplied by Macmillan Cancer Support.