Dealing with cancer treatment can feel physically and emotionally overwhelming at times. With so much new information to take on board, all those appointments and hospital visits, and important decisions being made about your care, it can sometimes feel as if things are out of your hands.
So, what can you do to feel more in control? Here are some Live Better With planning tips and practical strategies to help you take control of your cancer treatment…
Take an active role in your care
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it can naturally feel overwhelming at first. However, it’s helpful to start taking an active role as soon as you can, by engaging with your medical team and making yourself a part of the decisions relating to your treatment. Remember, this is your treatment plan, and you have a say in what happens.
Be sure to ask any questions you might have – it’s a good idea to keep a running list, so you can note down queries as they occur to you and take them to your next appointment. During an appointment, if there’s something you don’t understand, make sure you ask for clarification. It can also help to make some notes or take a friend along with you, as it can sometimes be difficult to take everything on board.
Learn more about your diagnosis
Learning about your cancer and treatment options can help you to feel more informed and in control. Your medical team should be your first port of call, as they understand the details of your cancer and its treatment, and what to expect.
Remember, the internet can be a useful source of information, but it’s very important to make sure you only visit reputable healthcare websites, and bear in mind that your treatment plan will depend on a number of factors, including the type, location and stage of your cancer, your state of health and your own wishes.
As part of your cancer treatment, you will have to manage a lot of different appointments. It can be helpful to use a planner, in which you can record all of your appointments, contacts and other important information.
The Live Better With community recommend the CanPlan cancer planner, which includes appointment trackers, monthly calendars and diet and lifestyle tips, as well as inspirational quotes and exercises.
It’s also important to keep track of your medication. Many people find that using a daily pill organiser can help you to stay on top of things.
Accept offers of support
Having cancer can sometimes be quite an isolating experience. However, getting support from family and friends can make all the difference as you embark on your treatment.
It’s important to accept offers of practical help, so that you have a chance to rest and recuperate. Think about the kind of assistance you would most benefit from, such as help with the household chores, driving to appointments, shopping, cooking, or looking after the children.
It’s also advisable to have a close friend or family member who you can talk to honestly about your thoughts and feelings. While being positive can be very helpful, you should be able to express openly how you are feeling, whether it’s good or bad.
Support groups and online forums can also be a useful source of moral support, from people who have been through a similar experience.
“Talk with someone you trust and express your feelings. It’s hard to start talking, but so, so much better when you do.” – Linda, Live Better With community member
Set yourself realistic goals
When you’re having cancer treatment, your normal routine is likely to change quite significantly. You may find it more difficult to do the things you normally would, because of tiredness, side effects, low mood or anxiety.
Now’s the time to decide what’s most important to you, and look to minimise other causes of stress in your life. Try to make sure you do some of the things you normally enjoy. It can help to set yourself some small, realistic goals which you feel able to achieve. For example, going out for a short walk or having coffee with a friend.
However, it’s important to listen to your body and allow yourself plenty of time to rest. Many people find that having regular, scheduled rest breaks can help. When it comes to visitors, don’t be afraid to set some boundaries so you don’t get too exhausted. Ask people to call before they visit, so that you don’t feel under any extra pressure.
Plan ahead for changes
If you’re worried about the potential side effects of your treatment, such as hair loss, advance planning can help. There are lots of different products available to help boost your confidence, from specially designed shampoos and conditioners, to eyebrow stencils, and a range of headwear options, including hats, wigs and pretty headscarves
“Get a wig before you need it. Wear it, get used to it – let other people get used to it too. When your hair starts to thin/ drop it is far less traumatic and no big deal.” – Carol, LBW community member
There are also many products which are specially designed to help you to feel more comfortable and achieve day to day tasks more easily – from bathing aids, to cooling gel masks and comfy bamboo clothing. You can find out more here.
Boost your well-being
It’s important to look after yourself physically and mentally as you go through treatment.
Eating healthily and doing some simple exercise can help to boost both body and mind. Many people recommend using a specialist cancer cookbook while undergoing treatment. Meanwhile, try going for a short walk in the fresh air or doing some gentle yoga stretches.
The Live Better With community also recommend keeping a journal, and practising relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation exercises, to help with their mental well-being.
“I write down my feelings, doodle, sketch and color. This all helps me keep my mind clear.” – David, LBW community member
If you’re finding it difficult to cope, talk to your medical team. They can explore a range of options, from medication to counselling.
When you’re going through cancer treatment, sometimes things may feel outside your control. However, by taking an active role, setting some simple goals and planning ahead, you can help to take control of your treatment.
If you have any tips to share, or if you are looking for advice and support, why not visit the Live Better With Cancer Community Forum.