Current statistics estimate that about 1 in 2 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. A cancer diagnosis can trigger intense feelings of fear and anxiety, leaving you overwhelmed and perhaps isolated. But while cancer certainly changes your life and the lives of those around you, the reality is that millions of people who have had cancer are alive today. Your chances of conquering it, and living well during treatment, are better now than ever before.
In that light, here are five strategies for coping with a cancer diagnosis:
1. TUNE INTO YOUR FEELINGS — ALL OF THEM
A cancer diagnosis can bring on a myriad of feelings. Sadness, guilt, loneliness, anger, jealousy and nervousness, for example, are all very normal responses. But it’s important to tune into and keep tabs on those feelings.
Cancer doesn’t deserve to occupy all of your time or your thoughts; if your emotional well-being is getting worse or your negative thoughts have lasted longer than two weeks, it’s time to contact a healthcare provider, as you may be experiencing depression. Seeking help is not always easy. With Medisys On-Demand, communicate instantly with healthcare professionals ready to assist you anytime, from the comfort and privacy of your home. Click here to learn more about our virtual care services.
It’s common for patients to feel that they developed cancer because of something they did or did not do, but remember: cancer can happen to anyone.
2. GET THE RIGHT INFORMATION
Some patients like to learn all the facts and details about their diagnosis and treatment options, while others prefer to let their doctor make the decisions. Neither choice is wrong, and it’s important to take some time to think about which strategy makes the most sense for you.
If you choose to do your own research, commit to consulting only accredited sources like the Canadian Cancer Society, and avoid looking to Dr. Google for answers. As you gather
information about different treatments and side effects, write down all of your questions and concerns to address with your doctor at your next visit so that you feel more in control and better prepared. Here is a great example of questions you may want to ask your health care team.
3. RALLY YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
Whether you have a large network of family and friends already or still need to build a support system, your ability to lean on others can make a major difference in your treatment. It also gives those who love and care about you a sense of making a difference during a hard time.
Bringing a friend or a family member to your medical appointments can help you remember all the information the doctor provides. Accepting help in the form of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning will free up time so that you can focus on your health, your loved ones and doing things you enjoy.
Cancer support groups can also be an excellent source of strength and a great way to glean advice from others who have been through, or are going through, exactly what you are. Remember that some old cancer stigmas still exist, and you may find that some friends or co-workers retreat from fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. All you can do is be candid about your feelings and focus on your own well-being.
4. PREPARE FOR POTENTIAL PHYSICAL CHANGES
Cancer and its treatments can lead to physical changes like hair loss, skin changes, weight changes and scars that can be difficult to embrace, especially if they come as a surprise. Ask your doctors what changes to expect so that you can prepare for them and explore options that may make you feel better, like wigs, hair-styling or different makeup applications. Consult your insurance provider to find out if any of these services are covered — they often are.
Nutrition and exercise can also make a big difference in how you feel during treatment, and data suggests that those who maintain some physical exercise during cancer treatment not only cope better but also may live longer. Good nutrition and exercise also promote better sleep, relaxation and stress reduction — all vital components of a healthy life. Consider making appointments with a kinesiologist and a registered dietitian to help you develop an optimal exercise and nutrition plan to follow during treatment. Click here to learn more about our nutrition services.
When cancer becomes a part of your daily life, making time for everything else can feel daunting. Try not to let your diagnosis take over. Continue setting goals and making plans — life keeps going!
Make a list of your priorities, which will of course include treatment, but make sure that doing things that you love don’t fall away. Yoga, cooking, going to your book club, reading and spending time with friends and family are all activities you can — and should — continue throughout treatment. If you’re unsure about continuing a certain activity you love, consult your doctor, and always listen to your body. You will have days where you feel like doing nothing at all, and that’s OK.
It’s also wise to evaluate your finances to see if you can afford to work less hours and/or outsource household tasks that require energy and don’t support the priorities of enjoyment, spending time with loved ones and self care.
A cancer diagnosis is an incredibly difficult experience, however, having the right supports and plans in place can lessen the burden. From psychologists and physicians to dietitians and kinesiologists, Medisys’ team of over 700 healthcare professionals and team members are here for you, to help you get through this difficult time and to remind you that there is hope.