1. Take one step at a time.
Try to focus on resolving only today’s problems. Avoid projecting worst case scenarios for the future. Take one small step at a time to help you feel less vulnerable and give you a greater level of control.
2. Ask for support.
Be open with your family and friends about how you feel and how they can help you. Offer specific examples like: driving you to appointments, researching sources for financial support or clinical trials, or just listening when you want to talk. Take a friend with you to medical appointments to take notes and help you remember instructions, and reach out to your nurse or oncology social worker for answers.
3. Communicate with your health care team.
Prepare a list of questions for each appointment. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification or ask for test results to get a better picture of your status. If you feel your doctor isn’t helpful, consider finding another. Get a second or third opinion on your diagnosis and treatment plan. Inquire about available clinical trials.
4. Retain control.
Health care professionals, family members, and the cancer itself can make it difficult to feel in-charge of your life and care. With your doctor, nurse, employer and caregiver discuss ways to maintain as much control over your life and your care plan as you wish to handle.
5. Acknowledge and express your feelings.
Cancer can trigger many strong emotions. Take time to listen to yourself. Find constructive ways to express your feelings through writing, talking, physical activity or creative pursuits. Consider professional support if depression or anxiety is stopping you from doing what you need to.
6. Seek support from other cancer survivors.
Often, people find a sense of comfort when they communicate with others affected by cancer. Your doctor, nurse, social worker or a local cancer support organization (like the Cancer Support Community and other organizations in the resource list) can offer many ways to connect one-on-one, in groups, or online with other people experiencing cancer.
7. Learn to relax.
“Relaxation” refers to a calm, controlled physical state that will enhance your well-being. Relaxation is something you might have to learn. Consider relaxing breaks in your daily routine: listen to music that makes you feel good, read a book, take a walk. Take time to enjoy the moment. Yoga, tai-chi, or meditation programs are also helpful.
8. Do what you enjoy.
Try to find humor in the unexpected moments of each day. Consider activities that you’ve always enjoyed, or find new activities that fit your abilities or limitations. If you need to spend time alone, allow yourself that luxury.
9. Make healthy lifestyle choices.
It’s never too late to make lifestyle changes that will absolutely improve your well-being: specifically with respect to diet and exercise. Focus on eating a plant based diet with a balance of protein, fiber and fat, to improve your bodily functions and to maintain a healthy weight. Aim to build as much exercise into your life as possible – with customized exercise plans that can be done by anyone at any level of fitness – starting slow and building up as you regain strength.
10. Maintain a spirit of hope.
Hope is desirable and reasonable. There are millions of people who have fought cancer. Even if recovery is complicated, you can set small goals and enjoy daily pleasures. With an open mind, hope can be found in unexpected ways.