A Guide to Help You Live with Cancer

A Guide to Help You Live with Cancer

. 4 min read

Cancer changes the way you see yourself: your body image and identity. Changes such as hair loss or loss of a part of your body can have an impact on your soul and mind.

Tiredness, depression, anger, weight gain, weight loss, blood work, and scans can all become paramount in your life.

The way treatment and diagnosis affect your life and your loved ones. Uncertainty, anger and grief are all part of the equation.

At times you may feel out of control, lonely, or different from everyone else. This is common, but it is important to let someone know. If it is continuous and you cannot focus on much else, it may be time for professional help to get you through the storm.

Cancer may also give you some positive changes such as gratitude, peace and appreciation for caregivers and your healthcare team.

Always say ‘the’ Cancer, not ‘my’ Cancer. ‘My’ is an ownership word, only use ‘my’ for things you want to own.

Things that seemed important in the past may seem less important as you focus on new priorities. This can be a positive change as small worries matter less. You may also have a clearer idea of your personal goals and the meaning of your life.

It might help to:

  • Keep a journal
  • Learn meditation techniques
  • Stay as physically active as you can
  • Keep a list of questions for your physician and don't be afraid to ask tough questions

Spend time in prayer and on your relationship with God (if that is your belief system). Involve your church if you belong to one. They may help with practical tasks and are likely to be happy to pray for you. They may be able to help with any costs or fund raising.

Let others know how they can best help you by making a list of things they can do for you/help you with, for example:

  • Taking care of a pet
  • House cleaning
  • Grocery shopping
  • Going for short drives weather permitting
  • Have someone go with you to appointments if possible.

Give yourself time to adjust.

A cancer diagnosis is often unexpected news that feels overwhelming at first. It is normal to need time to adjust to the possible life changes and many emotions you experience, as well as changes experienced during and after cancer treatment. Be gentle with yourself as you get used to all the changes. Don't let anyone tell you how much time you have to live, but do think about getting your plans in order as we all should do at some point in our lives.

Questions to ask your health care professionals:

  • Does the recommended cancer treatment have side effects that affect my appearance or body, such as hair loss or scarring? If so, when are these changes likely to happen? Will they be permanent?
  • Will reconstructive surgery be an option for me?
  • Could my sexual health or fertility be impacted?
  • Who can I talk with if I'm struggling with my self-image?
  • Are there counseling services at this medical center for patients?
  • How can I safely exercise during cancer?
  • Can you help me find a support group or peer support program for people who have had similar experiences?

Things you may need to get before your treatment or surgery:

  • Colace (stool softener)
  • Anti-nausea meds
  • Medication for diarrhea
  • Sea Bands (available from Amazon)

Other considerations:

If you are getting a Platinum agent, you may get a strong metal taste/not able to eat because of the strong taste. Use plastic utensils, if you have a dental partial with metal, take it out.

It is important to drink lots of water, unless another condition does not allow. Check with your physicians.

Keeping a food journal may be helpful

Tell your Oncologist if you take any supplements such as vitamins or herbs, as they may want you to stop using them.

Ask about CBD (or perhaps Cannabis for pain if it is legal where you live).

Make sure you have appropriate pain medications. You may also need something to help with sleep.

Make sure you know when you should notify your oncologist with symptoms and keep the emergency contact details on hand.

It is normal to have negative feelings after treatment ends. This concept is so contrary to what survivors are told; it is OK to feel negative after cancer. People have told me personally that hearing the negative feelings are normal and has freed them up to be less guilt-ridden. Seeing the extent of the relief that these people have felt after hearing this message was a huge eye-opener to me. Just don't let yourself stay in a dark place.

You are allowed to feel whatever you need to.

You may prefer to stay away from overly negative people or overly positive people.

While your immune system is compromised don’t clean litter boxes, and if you work outside in the garden wear protective clothing and gloves. Flush the toilet twice with lid down during chemo treatments. Stay away from crowds during chemo. Ask family and friends to stay away if at all unwell. Stay away from children who have recently received live vaccines. Mask when possible around others and practice good hand hygiene.

Managing the various side effects - including physical, emotional, social, and financial effects - of cancer is called "palliative and supportive care." It is an important part of a person's overall cancer care. Palliative and supportive care can be given in addition to treatments to slow, stop, or cure the cancer.

You can receive palliative and supportive care at any age and for any type and stage of cancer, and it can be given at any time during cancer treatment. This includes soon after learning you have cancer. Research shows that palliative and supportive care can improve the quality of your life. It can also help you feel more satisfied with the cancer treatment you receive. Different countries have different access arrangements to palliative care. If you are in the USA, see if your insurance covers Palliative Care.

Remember Palliative Care is not the same as Hospice (end of life) Care.

Make sure your Oncologist and team know what is important to you.

Things to tell your family and friends :

  • About the Cancer and treatment
  • That you may not feel like talking or socializing
  • What things they may be able to do for you that would help

There are several support articles you may find helpful: