After the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis wears off, anxiety over upcoming treatment takes over. Whether you will have chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation or surgery, the fear of the unknown is very real. Luckily, that can be overcome – to some extent.
Here are a few tips that helped me get through cancer in one piece.
1. BE DILIGENT
Prepare yourself for oncologist visits by writing down your questions and concerns before each appointment. Take a notepad and pen with you into the doctor’s office, find out what your treatment plan is and make sure to write down all the details. You will thank yourself for it later when you can’t remember how many cycles of what chemo you’re supposed to have when “chemo brain” hits or simply can’t remember because you were bombarded with so much information all at once. Do your own reading. Collect as many brochures as you can, read articles and ask your doctor or team about all the possible short and long term side effects you may encounter with your treatment and talk to other people who have gone through it. Walking into chemo without having an idea of what to expect is like walking the plank blindfolded. It is much easier to deal with side effects when you know what/when they will hit. If prepared, you may even be able to avoid some. After finding out that one of the drugs I was given caused my terrible mouth sores, I always asked the nurses for ice chips to chew on during my sessions.
2. HAIR LOSS
Whether you are a guy or girl, losing your hair may be one of your biggest fears. When I was diagnosed, I had been growing out my hair for over two years and found it difficult to part ways with it. So I cut it really short to prepare myself for the inevitable. If you have the guts to shave it all off, I salute you! Unfortunately, I didn’t have it in me to do so when it started falling out the first time; which turned out to be a lot more traumatizing than when I shaved it all off the minute it began to fall out the second time, after I’d relapsed.
On the upside, you can take this opportunity to experiment with wigs, headscarves and hats. Or, you can embrace your beautiful scalp and go bald!
3. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
If you’re expecting to live an absolutely normal life while undergoing treatment, you will be very disappointed, angry and frustrated if things don’t go as expected. While I encourage learning from other peoples’ experiences, it is just as crucial to remember that no two people react to the same treatment in the same way or in the same degree because each person’s body is UNIQUE. While for some chemo side effects are mild allowing them to go to school or work without too much trouble, many others have it harder, spending many days in bed after treatment with side effects much more difficult to manage. Best advice I can give you is to listen to what your body tells you and respect its needs.
4. REGAIN CONTROL
A cancer diagnosis can make you feel like you’ve lost control over your body and life and that’s one of the hardest things to accept. Instead of focusing on things you can’t control and falling into a downward spiral, direct your energy onto things cancer has no control over, mainly attitude. Set small daily goals each day and achieve them. They can be as minor as getting out of bed, taking a shower or being able to squeeze in one meal a day despite the nausea. Small goals but they account for huge wins against cancer.
Document your good and bad days so you know when to expect them. Go out for a walk on the good days to recharge before the next session. Have something to look forward to when treatment is over because it will help keep you moving forward on those bad cancer days and as cheesy as it sounds, it will remind you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you want to learn more about my personal experiences, take a look at my blog!