Dr Pamela Prince Pyle

Your Life With Cancer

I have cared for many patients over the decades who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have many friends who are cancer survivors and some who lost their battles to the disease. They all had a common moment that became one of their defining moments in life. It was the moment between a life without cancer and a life with cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and therefore, I want to focus on the topic of cancer and how to navigate life with cancer. Most important is to encourage you in your journey. The nature of hope changes with a cancer diagnosis and later in the month I will share with you the evolution of hope experienced by a dear friend in her life with cancer.

Defining Moments

There are moments in our lives that leave an indelible imprint in our memories. Those living with cancer can remember precise details of when the word cancer first applied to them. The room they sat in, the doctor’s face, the ride home, and that first sleepless night can be recalled in striking detail.

However, cancer survivors intuitively know that they can’t live in that moment. They must push past the grief of that moment to the battle which lies ahead. I want to help you with that battle and for additional help please request my free packet, Resources for a Serious Diagnosis .

The Importance of having a Battle Plan

Wartime analogies are applicable to many areas of life. When cancer enters our life, we must prepare ourselves as if we are entering a war. Developing a plan will help your mind, body, and soul. Knowing which weapons to use and when to use will be a strategy developed by you and your top generals: clinicians, therapists, pastoral care, and those who love you are but a few who will battle with you and for you.

           Let’s begin with a strategic plan for life with cancer:

·    Acknowledge and Share your Emotions: A serious diagnosis invariably results in many new emotions. Grief, fear, anxiety, and depression are common regardless of age, gender, cancer type or stage.

Faith and these emotions are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes patients will experience guilt for having these emotions while having a history of enduring faith. Sharing all your emotions, including guilt, helps diffuse some of their power.

·     Seek a Second (or Third) Opinion: It’s often recommended to seek a second opinion from another qualified oncologist. In my article, The Power of Multiple Opinions, I share the benefits of more than one perspective.

·     Build a Support Network: Family and friends want to help but the don’t always know how to help. You may not feel up to taking care of the practical things in life while receiving treatment. Perhaps you will need or want rides to clinicians and treatments.

Caring for your children or pets may be necessary on the days you can expect side effects from treatment. In my next post I will share advice on how to help someone in his or her life with cancer. However, your needs will be unique to your circumstance. Remember, people want to help.

·     Communicate with your Healthcare Team: Ask questions, be open about your concerns, and discuss treatment options. Make sure you fully understand your diagnosis, treatment plan, and prognosis. If you are unsure what questions to ask, I have listed the most important ones in Resources for a Serious Diagnosis.

·     Educate yourself: Learn about your specific type of cancer, treatment options, and potential side effects. This can help you feel more in control and better prepared for what lies ahead. The best resources are found at www.cancer.org.

Also, if you have a rare or recurrent cancer you visit www.clinicaltrials.gov and see clinical trials that are being done around the world. You may possibly be a candidate and would need to discuss this with your oncologist.

·     Explore Complementary Therapies: With your healthcare team’s approval, you may want to consider complementary therapies like acupuncture, meditation, or yoga to help manage symptoms and improve your overall well-being. It is also extremely important to have the proper nutrition and a referral to a nutritionist may be appropriate if you do not have clarity from your oncology office.

·     Plan for all Possibilities: Planning for ending well is not failing to fight or giving up. I recommend planning regardless of age or health condition. Download the Planning for Peace Checklist to guide you and your family through the details of a well-planned life.

While life with cancer became a defining moment it is not what defines you. You are so much more, and you will discover your inner courage, resilience, and strength.

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