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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

30 Things You Should Know About Living With Cancer

Written by Oluwatoyin Joy Oke on 
23rd April, 2022
Updated: 29th January, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes
Table of Contents

A cancer diagnosis can be difficult news to cope with

You may worry about how it will change your life or the lives of the people around you.

A cancer diagnosis is the start of a life full of emotional, psychological, physical, and practical challenges.

You’ll need to figure out how to find the right healthcare team, manage prescriptions, tackle financial and insurance questions, and a lot more.

Living with cancer requires you not surrender to despair and impersonal medical treatment. Empower yourself with information and try to gain control over your situation. If you have cancer, know what to expect and make plans. This can help make the stressful time easier.

This article will focus on things you need to know as you live with cancer. The tips will help you throughout the journey.

What you need to know about living with cancer

1. Endeavour to know your diagnosis and the stage of your cancer

You need to gather, as many facts as possible about your diagnosis from your doctor. This you can get by asking questions like the following:

  • What is the name of my cancer?
  • What stage is it? And what does that mean
  • What studies are available for my type and stage of cancer?
  • What are the things I need to know that will guide my treatment decision-making?
  • What treatment options do you recommend?
  • Why is the treatment option the best for me?
  • How long do I have?
  • What happens if my treatment is working?
  • What tests and procedures will I take?
  • When is it to call a doctor?
  • What should I do to prevent my cancer from coming back?
  • Will my kids have my cancer?

Ask other questions that come to your mind. You need to know everything about living with cancer as a new diagnosis.

2. Inform your family of your diagnosis

You should know that it is important to let your family know your diagnosis. If you inform them it means you are allowing them to support you. This will be beneficial to you.

3. Accept help

Family and friends may offer to help with errand transport, cooking, and other chores. You need to learn to accept their help. Living with cancer can be very tiring. But with timely and practical help from family and friends, you can deal with the difficult time.

4. Know that people’s reactions will be different

When you disclose your cancer diagnosis, some loved ones may stigmatize you. Others may stop associating with you.

Others may stop talking to you because they don’t know what to say. Or because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. Still, others may have questions and feel concerned for you.

Let them know they do not need to avoid you. Cancer isn’t contagious. Stick with the ones who stay. Give answers to their questions. You can appoint a reliable family or friend to educate them on what you are through. Allow them to take cues from you.

5. Get a second option

You should know that getting the best treatment to live with cancer is important. You may need to be ready to travel and get 2nd, 3rd, 4th options.  Always remember you have the right to as many options as possible.

Sort out other options from another doctor, or another hospital. Compare each doctor and choose the one that makes you more comfortable.

You should choose a doctor that listens well to you. He/she should be able to explain details of your cancer in a language you can understand. Your doctor must be willing to understand you.

Explore all care options available to you. It also helps you know if there are new science you can try in your care and treatment.

6. Get to know your health care team

It is important to know the members of your health team. Take your time to understand their roles. Find out how they might be of help to you.

The selection of your oncologist and health care team is one of the most important decisions you need to make.
Effective cancer treatment is a combined effort you, and your physician. Form a strong relationship with your cancer care team, it helps to manage your cancer.

If you do not feel like you will be able to develop a good relationship with your doctor, find another one. And remember to get a second opinion on your diagnosis and treatment plan.

          Your health care team may comprise of the following

  • Medical oncologist: this doctor manages your cancer, your treatment, and your care. The doctor is also responsible for setting up a health care team.
  • Surgical oncologist: this specialist doctor will help you if need to undergo surgery.
  • Radiation oncologist: this specialist treats cancer using radiation.
  • Oncology nurses: they are important members of your health team. Their duties vary from making sure you and your family understand what is happening. They care for your medical needs.
  • Oncology social worker: responsible for counseling and helping you get practical help
  • Psychiatrist: this doctor helps you deal with your mental health. The doctor can prescribe drugs that can help you.
  • Dietitian or nutritionist: they are there to help you manage your diet. They also advise on how to deal with reduced appetite. And many other issues relating to eating and drinking.

7. Living with cancer requires you to make a lot of decisions

Understand what is happening by being active with your healthcare team will help. This involves making decisions. To make the right decision about your treatment, try these tips

  • List out your options:  include names of the treatment options recommended to you. And try to understand what they mean
  • Get a lot of information about your options: it may include the side effects and its management. Know the duration, check to know if you have other options if one doesn't work.

8. Get to know the treatment options you have and their goals

 Ask your health team if treatment for your type of cancer is available. Then get to know your all options.

It is important to know the goal of treatment. Is it to cure your cancer? Or is it to manage your side effects? Try to ask them about the other goals.

30 Things You Should Know About Living With Cancer

9. Get to know how much time you have with making a decision and starting your treatment

This helps you in taking your time to make informed decisions about your care and treatment. It also helps to have an insight into what you should do and have it done.

10. Know how long and often you will need treatment

Being informed will help you make financial plans. It also helps to analyze if your insurance will cover your treatment. It will help you know if you will need to sort out funds to pay for your treatment bills.

11. Keep the lines of communication open.

Having honest, two-way communication with your doctor and loved ones can help you. It helps if you and others express emotions honestly. That way you gain strength from each other.

12. Living with cancer requires being organized.

The days following your diagnosis may be filled with lots of uncertainty. You may know little or nothing about your diagnosis.

You should know that your days will have lots of appointments, tests, and paperwork to deal with.

13. To make things easy keep track of everything

  • Keep a diary, a paper, or an online calendar to track your appointments, tests, symptoms, treatment, and side effects.
  • You can ask a trusted family or friend to maintain your schedule and review them with you regularly.

14. You need to know that having family members or friends follow you to an appointment can help.

 The days and months following your diagnosis will be filled with appointments. Having them with you during the appointment helps you to get information that may have been lost.

Bring someone you trust and who can stand as your advocate to those appointments.

They can help be your ears, take notes, and ask your writing question or other questions. And they get to digest all the information for you.    

15. Know to risks and benefits of any treatment you will undergo

It will help if you know and write out the pros and cons of your treatment option. Writing it down will help you compare the positives and negatives outcomes. It will also help in your treatment decision-making.

You need to know how effective that treatment is. You need to know the side effect you may experience. Learn how long your treatment may take.

16. Always think of what is important to you

Living with cancer engages friends and family. They may give you a lot of information, advice, and suggestion.

But know that you are the one having the treatment so you have the right to decide what you think will be comfortable for you.

So make a choice that reflects what is most important to you. Don't feel be pressured to do anything.

17. Waiting for treatment to start

You need to know that there will be a need to wait before you start your treatment. It may be that your doctor has to understand your type of cancer. Or the type of treatment that will work best for you. Your doctor may need you to have some tests and wait for the results.

18. It is good to write out questions or your concerns ahead of meeting with your health teams

Try to bring those written questions with you to your appointment. Living with cancer requires you to letting your health care team get to know you well.

Asking them questions or answering their questions will help them get to know you well. This will help to tailor your treatment to your needs and goals.

19. Take care of yourself before treatment

As someone diagnosed with cancer, you need to take good care of yourself. The following steps can help

  • Check the condition of your teeth, gums, and mouth. It will help you deal well with the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • Get enough rest at all times
  • Make sure you eat well. You may put cooked food inside the freezer for times you can't cook.
  • Get active physically with exercise can help deal well during treatment.
  • Pamper yourself
  • If you are told that your treatment may lead to hair loss, cut your hair before they start falling off. You may even try out wigs that match well with your hair.

20. Think of possible physical changes

A cancer diagnosis may bring with it some physical changes. It helps if you know those changes and prepare well for them. You may need to ask your doctor the changes to anticipate and what to do to cope with them.

Sometimes living with cancer may require you to take a break from your daily activities. Anticipating this ahead helps you in arranging how to cope.

21. Maintain your normal lifestyle.

Living with cancer may impact your lifestyle in ways you never expected. You need to take a day at a time.

Try organizing and planning your activities. This will help you maintain your normal lifestyle. Be ready to modify it at any time.

22. Communicate with other people with cancer.

Sometimes you may feel people don't understand what you are going through. To help, try communicating and connecting with others living with cancer. They can share their experiences and give you insight. You can connect with people from support groups.

23. You can talk to someone about your emotional and social distress.

Having cancer brings with it different feelings like depression, anxiety, and confusion.

Talking with a professional can help with your concern and connect you with helpful support.

Never forget that help is available for whatever you may be going through. So speak up.

24. Ask to participate in a clinical trial

You need to know that you can explore clinical trials as a treatment option for your cancer. So ask your health team about it. Getting a pre-knowledge of a clinical trial may be helpful for you.

25. Have a treatment plan

During treatment requires you to understand every aspect of your care. So talk to your doctor or your oncology nurse to help develop a written treatment plan.

It helps you have the big picture of your treatment. It will also help you to be organized, ask questions and prepare for different aspects of your treatment.

Make sure you understand what is on the plan. If not, talk to your doctor about your misunderstanding. This helps you to know if you are on the same page with them.

26. Manage your medication.

Your cancer treatment may involve chemotherapy or targeted therapy. It will be necessary to keep track of your medication. This you can do by doing the following

  • Make use of pill organizers, charts, or calendars. It will help you in taking the right drugs at the right time.
  • Ask your healthcare team to make a printout of your medication. Try to review it with your doctor at each appointment. If a family member helps in managing your medication. Endeavor to review the list with them.
  • Never run out of your medication.
  • Inform your doctor if you miss a dose.
  • Talk to your healthcare team before combining other medication, vaccines, or herbs with your medication.

27. Keep to a healthy lifestyle.

Living with cancer during treatment requires your maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Don't smoke, keep a proper diet, and exercise well. This thing or other suggested opinions from your health team help you live well with cancer.

28. Living with cancer depends on each day.

Your feeling during treatment can vary. You need to know that keeping a positive attitude is important. But you should not cover over your fear, concern, and tears at all costs. Give yourself a chance to feel each emotion as they come each day.

29. Strengthen the bond with loved ones

You need to know that cancer diagnosis can either mar or strengthen a relationship. Try to always open the line of communication. This will help reduce anxiety and fear caused by cancer. 

30. Understand and pay attention to your mental health.

You need to know that some cancer treatments such as Chemo can affect your mental health. They can cause you chemo brain. Which makes it hard to concentrate or remember things. To cope with it try the following

  • Try to talk about it, even if it’s hard to do so. There is the word of caution, talk to people that understand what you are going through. Try talking to your health care provider or a support group you belong to.
  • Be patient with yourself. Never allow anyone to rush you into getting back to your normal self. Nothing about what you are going through is normal.
  • Exercising and participating in activities you enjoy may also help.

Thoughtful gifts for people living with cancer

On a final note

Remember you did not choose cancer and no one did. But along with changes, pain, and other emotions, remember to live your life to the fullest. 

Cancer diagnosis involves making an informed decision. Take your time to do so. Follow the tips highlighted in this article. Allow yourself time to heal. Live a day at a time.

Further reading

Cancer Caregivers Need To Take Care Of Themselves Too!

How To Help Someone Who Is Bedbound / Bedridden

What To Say To Someone Who Has Cancer (And What Not To Say)

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