There is no right or wrong way to deal with cancer, but there are actions you can take while dealing with cancer that can help you to feel in control during your cancer journey. Below is an excerpt from The Cancer Support Community’s newly updated and redesigned educational resource Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Treatments and Side Effects. This free booklet explores cancer treatment options, potential side effects associated with these treatments and tips to help manage side effects and communicate with your health care team. It also contains a planner to help you manage appointments, treatments, mediations, test results and side effects.
Pace Yourself. Try to take one moment at a time and solve on problem at a time. Allow your mind to focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t control (such as the “unknowns”), or the cancer itself.
Ask for Support. Be open with your family and friends about how you feel and be honest about how they can support you. Offer specific examples, such as driving you to appointments, researching insurance questions, or just listening when you want to talk. Consider taking someone with you to medical appointments to take notes and help you remember instructions.
Communicate with your health care team. Prepare your list of questions for each appointment and take the time you need to get answers. If you need more time with your doctor, ask. Longer appointments may be available. It is also helpful to get a second opinion so you can feel informed and confident in your medical team. Your health care team wants to hear from you. If you are struggling with side effects at home, it is encouraged to contact your health care team by phone.
Retain as much control of your life as is reasonable. Work with your medical team and loved ones to develop a plan that gives you as much control over your life as you desire and can comfortably handle during and after treatment.
Acknowledge and express your feelings. A cancer diagnosis typically triggers strong emotions, such as fear. Find constructive ways to express your feelings through writing, talking, physical activity or creative pursuits. Professional help is advised if depression or anxiety is affecting you. Do not be hesitant to express this to your team, so that you can obtain expert assistance. If you are unsure if you are suffering from depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor.
Seek support from others living with cancer. People gain comfort and strength when they talk to others coping with similar issues. Your doctor, nurse, or social worker can direct you to local support groups, or contact the Cancer Support Community.
Learn relaxation techniques. “Relaxation” refers to a calm, controlled physical state. Relaxation is not always easy, and you might have to learn how. Consider things that make you feel relaxed: music, a good book, walking, yoga, meditation, or cooking. The goal is to feel peace and enjoy the moment.
Do what you enjoy. Try to find humor in the unexpected moments of each day. Consider activities that you can enjoy and can do comfortably.
Make healthy lifestyle choices. It is never too late to make changes to enhance your well-being. Set realistic goals and build on them. Improve your diet, include exercises into your routine that feel good (your doctor can recommend safe exercises), rest and maintain intimacy- these are all ways to feel better both physically and emotionally.
Maintain a spirit of hope. Hope is desirable and reasonable. Even if your cancer experience is complicated, you can set small goals and enjoy daily pleasures. You can redefine how you experience hope by focusing on the activities and connections that give you happiness. Hope is contagious. Surround yourself with people and things that bring this out.