The C word itself is enough to send anyone into a head spin. Yet one in three of us will get it at some point. For the first few hours or even days after finding out about your condition you will doubtless go through a range of emotions. And that is perfectly normal. Try and have a loved one with you; one that doesn’t go into panic mode. Living with cancer is a struggle, but there are day-to-day things you can do to make it easier.
Side effects from cancer drugs and treatments can leave you exhausted and have effects on your body that you need to keep an eye on. One of the things that most people have concerns about is the pain element. Remember that the amount of pain is not necessarily relative to the cancer or its size, or growth. It might not even be the cancer (some don’t cause pain), it could just be an everyday twinge. After surgery or treatment, your nerves have to renew themselves and have to send pain signals. These don’t respond to normal painkillers, so talk to your doctor about what will work for you.
There will be days, especially if you are undergoing any sort of chemotherapy or radiotherapy, that you will be absolutely shattered. Take some time out on those days, your body needs to recover. The rest of the time you need to work on keeping yourself in the best health possible. That means cutting out cigarettes, recreational drugs, alcohol and eating a balanced diet. Many people experience weight loss with cancer. You may need to up your calorie intake and supplement food in hospital.
Probably the hardest part to cope with is the emotional side of living with cancer. Sometimes you want TLC and other times you just want to forget about the whole thing. It is important to understand your ‘down’ moments and how to cope with them. It’s sometimes easier to talk to a nurse or counselor, rather than friends or family. They invariably know the right thing to say; even if that is nothing at all, and they just listen.
Fear and anxiety are natural and there are relaxation techniques you can use to manage these feelings. Massage is great for relaxation and deep breathing exercises can help in stressful moments. Taking things one day at a time is vital. Try doing something positive, like fundraising for cancer charities – it can make a difference for yourself and others.
All the appointments, treatments and medication that come with cancer can be a logistical nightmare. Keep on top of things with a calendar at home, a diary in your bag or make use of the apps on your smartphone. Staying in control of these things will act as a metaphor for you staying in control of cancer, rather than the other way round. If it all gets too much, appoint a loved one as your ‘Cancer Personal Assistant’ – they are in charge of getting you where you need to be – leaving you to get on with life!
You may be concerned about time off work, or, if you are unable to work, how to ensure things tick over at home. There are various sick pay and benefits you may be entitled to. Financial support might be required for unexpected expenses. You might consider applying for a charity grant. Macmillan, for example, offers all kinds of help for struggling families – home-help, travel or telephone bills. There’s no shame in asking for help. No-one elects to get cancer, and yet everyone is touched by it one way or another. And they want to help.
This post comes from the bloggers at Cancer Research UK providing support and help for cancer sufferers.