Be informed. Take action. Connect with others.
In June 1982, Harold Benjamin, PhD, founded The Wellness Community (TWC) in Santa Monica, California. At the center of TWC’s program philosophy is Dr. Benjamin’s Patient Active© Concept:
“People with cancer who actively participate in their fight for recovery along with their physicians and healthcare professionals will improve the quality of their lives and may enhance the possibility of their recovery. Combining the will of the patient with the skill of the physician – A powerful combination.”
---Harold Benjamin, Ph.D., Founder
Keys to being Patient Active
- Take a deep breath When you feel stressed or overwhelmed by choices, take a moment, breathe, and simply make one decision at a time. Begin by getting the information and resources that you need for the next phase of your treatment plan. Avoid projecting worst-case scenarios for the future. Take one positive step toward tomorrow
- Ask for support. Be open with your family and friends about how they can support you. Often people want to help, but don’t know how. Offer them specific examples, such as driving you to appointments or preparing meals. Take an advocate with you to medical appointments to take notes, remember instructions and discuss what you heard afterwards.
- Communicate with your health care team.
- Prepare a list of questions for each appointment. Ask for clarification of terms you do not understand. Ask to see x-rays or scans to get a better picture of your status. If you do not develop a good relationship with your doctor, consider finding another one. Also, always consider a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment plan.
- Participate in social activities and hobbies that you enjoyed before your diagnosis. Stay involved with friends, but give yourself opportunities to spend time alone when you need it.
- Develop a plan with your doctors and caregivers that gives you as much control over your life as you can realistically handle. This plan should coordinate medical and psychosocial care to support you in managing your illness and health by linking you with needed services for emotional, practical and spiritual support.
- Express your feelings, both positive and negative, in talking to your doctor, caregivers, and friends. A diagnosis of cancer can trigger many strong emotions, but you can find constructive ways to acknowledge the range of feelings that you may experience. Try using a journal to track your moods. Another good way to vent your frustration or fears is through physical activity like walking or yoga. Ask your doctor for resources to address any depression or anxiety that you may experience. This is normal and you do not have suffer with depression and anxiety.
- Seek relaxation Cancer is stressful. It helps to learn how to trigger a relaxation response in times of stress. The relaxation response is a calm, controlled physical state that may enhance the function of your immune system for a period of time by reducing stress. Consider joining a relaxation or meditation program in your community or engage in activities that enable you to relax, such as walking, reading, or listening to music.
- View yourself as a survivor, not as a victim. The National Association of Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) states that you are a cancer survivor from the moment of diagnosis. There are millions of people for whom cancer is a distant memory. Use positive terms, like wellness, hope, and control to counteract any feelings of passivity, pessimism, or guilt. Don’t blame yourself. Focus on what you can do and control in your life now. Cancer is not an automatic death sentence and the treatments have changed dramatically from even a few short years ago. There is always hope.
- Seek support from other cancer survivors. You may find a sense of comfort in communicating with others who share your experiences, either in person, online, or on the telephone. Ask your doctor, nurse, social worker, or counselor for suggestions. Contact Cancer Support Community or the organizations listed in the Resources on this website for ways to connect with other cancer survivors.
- Maintain a spirit of hope Many people have survived cancer, and you can, too. Draw on your spiritual beliefs, cultural customs, and family connections. Talk with other survivors to learn from their experiences. Hope is a motivating factor in your recovery. A positive perspective will help you handle any challenges that lie ahead. Remember that cancer is only a part of your life. You may have cancer but it does not have you!