Cancer is often a disease that lasts a long time, and people may get treatment for many years, it’s a major public health burden in developed and developing countries. Cancer is the second largest common disease spread world-wide.
The C-word fills most people with dread. In one survey, most people said that getting cancer was their number one fear. So it’s understandable that receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be very daunting. Sometimes, people close to the patient are very involved at first, but grow distant as the treatment goes on over months or even years. It’s understandable that you can become “burned out” when supporting a person with cancer. Still, people with cancer need emotional support through all of the illness. Living with the disease is the biggest challenge they have ever faced. It can change your routines, roles and relationships. It can cause money and work problems. The treatment can change the way you feel and look. Learning more about ways you can help yourself may ease some of your concerns. Support from others is important1.
The ill-health condition had brought about financial predicament to both patients and family members and has limited their productivity in terms of income-generating activities. Good interpersonal relationships and support from their care providers aided their compliance to treatment regime and provided hope for living positively with their condition2.
When living with cancer, the following would be of advantage to the patient, friends and family:
- Know which side effects you may experience and plan how you will deal with them
The most common cancer treatments are chemotherapy (using drugs to kill cancer cells), radiotherapy (using radiation to kill cancer cells), surgery and biological therapy (using proteins to boost your immune system). Chemotherapy and radiotherapy kill cancer cells, but some healthy cells can also become damaged in the process. That is what causes the side effects of cancer treatment, such as fatigue, hair loss, nausea, fever and infection.
You won’t know exactly what side effects you will experience until you begin your treatment. One way to prepare is to ask your doctor about your chances of having side effects and what they might be. Planning ways to deal with possible side effects can help you feel more in control of your situation. In addition, having a positive attitude, talking about your feelings and learning as much as you can about your cancer and treatment may help you feel less anxious about side effects. Keep in mind that most side effects of cancer treatment can be controlled and will go away after treatment ends.
- Stay positive
It can be hard in such a difficult situation, but trying to be positive can really help you to cope. Try focusing on the positive things that you do know, and avoid negative thoughts that may not be true. Discuss your worries with your doctor, nurse or supporter – they can often reassure you.
Try to encourage yourself whenever possible, and be proud of your strength and courage. Remember to enjoy the times that you’re feeling well, and have fun with your family and friends4.
- Eat right and look after yourself
Normally, a healthy diet includes eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and a moderate amount of low-fat meat and dairy products, as well as limiting fat and sugar. However, nutrition recommendations for people preparing for cancer treatment are different. They are designed to make your body strong enough to handle the effects of your cancer and treatment.
For this reason, you may need to increase the amount of calories and protein you eat. For example, you may need to include more milk, cheese and cooked eggs in your diet. You may also need to change your cooking methods. Your doctor can provide specific recommendations on how you should change your diet before and during treatment, or he or she may refer you to a dietitian. Appropriate nutrition is very important for people who are being treated for cancer, and a dietitian can offer valuable information and advice3.
Ask your doctor to help you plan meals that won’t contribute to certain treatment side effects, such as constipation or nausea. Then, before you start your treatment, stock up on foods that are part of your meal plan so you won’t need to shop as often. In addition, you or a friend or family member may decide to cook in advance and freeze foods in meal-sized portions to make things easier during your treatment. Taking care of yourself will also help you to deal with the emotional side of your diagnosis. You might like to:
- get some rest and relaxation time
- get some gentle exercise
- get a good night’s sleep
- avoid drinking too much alcohol
- Get help from family and friends
During your cancer treatment, you may need help with tasks you’re used to doing on your own. It’s a good idea to discuss your changing needs with family members and friends before your treatment begins so that you’ll have a plan in place. For example, someone may need to temporarily take over household jobs like cooking, mowing the lawn, doing laundry or washing the car. Everyone involved should discuss the changes that need to be made in your family’s routine. It’s important that everyone agrees to and is comfortable with the new routine4.
- Find a support group
Being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment is a difficult experience that can leave you feeling overwhelmed, frightened and alone. Even with the support of family members and friends, many people need additional help dealing with the emotional and physical impact of having cancer. A support group can provide this help. Support groups are designed to offer an atmosphere where you can talk about your feelings and share information with other people who are going through a similar experience. Support groups are also available to the family members of people who have cancer.
Many different types of support groups are available. It’s important to find one that makes you feel comfortable and meets your individual needs. Your doctor or a local hospital can suggest ways to find a support group4.
- NHS Choices Information. Coping With Cancer Diagnosis. Accessed at http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/cancer/Pages/coping-with-cancer-diagnosis.aspx on June 30, 2015
- National Center for Biotechnology information, U. S. National Library of Medicine. Living with cancer: a qualitative report of the experiences of leukaemia patients in Lagos, Nigeria. Accessed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23925785 on June 30, 2015.
- Family Doctor.org Editorial Staff. Cancer:Preparing For Cancer Treatment. Accessed at http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/cancer/treatment/preparing-for-cancer-treatment.printerview.all.html on June 30, 2015
American Cancer Society. Living With Cancer. Accessed at http://www.cancer.org/treatment/understandingyourdiagnosis/talkingaboutcancer/listenwithyourheart/listen-with-your-heart-living-cancer on June 30,2015.