Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tips for Cancer Survivors

Dave & I celebrating my last chemo treatment!

I began my battle with cancer in the summer of 2012 when I was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer.  I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  My last chemo treatment was in May 2013, and this month (June 2014) marks my first year anniversary of being in remission!  There have been ups as well as downs, and I want to share a few tips for others facing cancer:

1.  Hold on to your faith.  It is so easy to neglect times of prayer, scripture reading, or devotions when feeling tired and ill, but now is the time to cling to faith.  It can become your greatest source of strength and comfort.  Even a few focused minutes daily are helpful.

2.  Seek out a fellow cancer fighter or survivor.  It helps to know you are not alone in your struggle and is therapeutic to talk with someone that understands on a personal level, will listen to you vent, share your fears, peeves, hopes, victories and give honest feedback.

3.  Continue to exercise (with your physicians OK).  A small amount each day can help combat stress, soreness, and will be valuable as you recover from treatments.

4.  Try not to panic about food, weight loss or gain.  I found focusing on eating increased anxiety and decreased appetite.  Eat when relaxed, and have a variety of options available.  (Note to family: don’t become upset or offended if preferences change daily.  Something that is craved/desired one day may become repulsive the next.)  Also: your sense of taste does change!  Try not to expect food, or a favorite dish to taste the same as you remember.  Try to think of each dish as if you are trying something new, then you will be less likely to be disappointed if it doesn’t taste the way you expect.  Bold flavors can be very helpful in stimulating appetite.  I craved “Mike & Ikes” and my friend craved “Skittles.”  Something in the tart, citrusy flavor was appealing.

5.  Talk to a social worker.  The hospital or clinic where you receive treatment should have a social worker available.  I was fortunate to meet with one after my first oncologist visit as part of my clinic’s protocol.  It was invaluable.  Social workers know the ins and outs of medical billing, income/disability, and emotional health.  They have experience dealing with issues associated with long-term illness and can help you establish a plan for managing bills, income, family, etc.

6.  Keep your sense of humor.  It is ok to laugh.  Some of my best times during treatment were spent joking with the other “inmates” at radiology, or laughing with the staff.

7.  Let people know when you need help.  Your friends and family want to be able to do something to help you.  Give practical ideas like: grocery shopping, rides, house cleaning, meals, finances, walking pets or even cleaning the cat litter.

8.  Give yourself a break.  You are not only battling a disease, but also experiencing the side effects of potent treatments.  You will feel tired.  You will need to scale back at work, your job, and at home.  Don’t feel guilty about it, it is necessary and you need your energy to attack the cancer.

9.  Keep in touch with family and friends through phone calls, group e-mails, FB, tweets, whatever method of communication appeals to you (as you feel up to it.)  Your friends and acquaintances may be afraid to contact you because they know you are exhausted, sick, and may be resting.  (Note to friends: keep up the cards and short notes.)  Also, feel free to let people know when you are tired, not up for a visit, chat, etc.  Your friends will not be offended.

10.  Elect a “sanitation officer” in your home.  They can ask visitors to wash their hands when entering the house.  Your immune system is probably low, and friends will not mind doing this for your health.  My Mom accepted this role while visiting me.  In a house full of men, she laid down the cleanliness law, reinforcing the need for hand washing, and monitored the soap dispensers to make sure they were used regularly.  She had a pow-wow with my son & husband when she felt the amount of soap wasn’t decreasing to her satisfaction.

11.  Get out of the house.  Go for rides in the car and enjoy a change of scenery.  My husband and I would often go out for ice-cream; I could eat it in the car as I enjoyed the countryside.

12.  Don’t compare yourself with other cancer fighters.  Treatment plans, energy levels, and responses to medications are very individual.  One person may be able to train for a half marathon and it gives them a goal and distraction from their treatment.  Another may be lucky to get up and out of bed.  Both are doing what they can to battle this beast.  Try not to judge yourself or others.  I found that other cancer sufferers and survivors were some of my best cheerleaders during the battle.

13.  Ask at your clinic about programs for cancer survivors.  Your community may have group support meetings, organizations that will help with finances, free legal advice and exercise programs.

14.  Wear super-hero socks and undies on treatment days.  It does help.

1 comment:

  1. If you have a tip to share with other survivors, please post in the comments. Thanks!