There are so many different aspects of living with cancer – from the pure medical issues, to emotional aspects, to the impact on the family as well as daily living considerations.
One thing that has changed dramatically in the last thirty years though, is that the chances of survival have increased dramatically. Cancer is by no means a death sentence these days – on the contrary.
Each person’s experience of cancer is different – people have different world views, different home circumstances, different financial situations, and last, but not least, different types of cancer.
The following general tips might be useful to you:
The medical side
Knowledge is power. Find out as much as you can about the type of cancer you have. Very often what we can imagine in our ignorance is far worse than the truth. However, check the source of your information carefully, especially on the Internet. Get your doctor to recommend some books or some websites with well-researched and accredited information. Find out about the different treatments, different types of medication and the pros and cons of all of these.
Choose the right doctor. You need to find someone with the right mix of good medical knowledge and bedside manner. This is a traumatic time in your life and the last thing you need is to feel that your doctor is not sufficiently caring, informative or understanding.
Get listed. Make a list of all the questions you need to ask the doctor. In the consulting room it is often difficult to remember everything you wanted to ask. Remember that you are probably not medically trained, therefore there is no such thing as a stupid question. If the doctor uses any terminology you do not understand, say so and ask for an explanation. You are paying for the consultation – get your money’s worth.
Make informed decisions. Depending on your condition, you might have to decide whether you want to undergo surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Find out as much as you can about the different treatments and their side effects and their possible benefits. Accept that when it comes to something like chemotherapy, there is little correlation between how it makes you feel and the longterm benefits you could be deriving from it.
Do not self-medicate. If you get headaches, or suffer from diarrhoea or even get flu, get to your doctor. There are over-the-counter medications that could interfere with your cancer medication. Lifestyle and diet changes should only be undertaken under medical supervision. If your medication has side effects, do not stop taking the tablets without consulting your doctor first. This could have very serious consequences.
Stick to instructions. Take medication at the time you are supposed to and follow the instructions carefully. If you stick to instructions from your doctor, chances of complications become reduced and the working of the medication is at its most efficient. Also try to stick to any lifestyle recommendations your doctor has made –difficult as they may be. In the long run, the sacrifice will be to your advantage.
(Liesel Powell, Health24)
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