What to consider during your cancer treatment
Continuing the “ALL ABOUT YOU” theme from last month, those plans you made prior to treatment may very well change once you have begun. Since people react differently to the variety of cancer treatment options, you may reconsider or revise your previous preparations.
Physical needs must be addressed during treatment. You can expect food to taste different once treatment begins. In the early stages, enjoy favourite meals but be prepared for your palate to change and some things to taste “off”. No matter how you feel, it is important to stay hydrated with whatever liquids appeal to you. If you are experiencing negative side effects like nausea or mouth sores, let your healthcare team know because there are things that can be done to ease your discomfort.
Find ways to be comfortable during treatment – loose, casual clothing if you will be sitting in a chemo chair for prolonged periods of time, or clothing that is easy to take off for exams. Once you are home, have a warm shawl or throw nearby if you tend to get cold. Consider a layered approach if hot flashes are annoying you.
Emotional needs can be addressed during treatment through spiritual or psychological means. Even if you’re not in the habit consider meditation, visual imagery, or prayer. Many cancer survivors find comfort in music or soft yoga. Some people enjoy movies with humour and personal messages.
In your folder of information be sure to record your reactions to treatment, questions for your healthcare team and changes to your general health. Some people prefer to carry a journal for these less scientific but most important feelings.
Even if you’ve planned ahead and have people to take you to appointments, sometimes things change especially after prolonged treatment. The Canadian Cancer Society has a “Wheels of Hope” program where transportation is provided for cancer-related appointments which gives you peace of mind and assistance when needed. If you need a ride to your treatment and you would like to register for the Volunteer Driver Provided Program please call 1-800263-6750.
If you want to use social media to share your story with friends, then ask someone to do that for you – someone you trust to tell your story as you want it told. Decide who will do it, how often and in what platform. As your energy or patience is depleted, you may want less company and you need to be able to communicate that to visitors. This could be the person posting updates for you or a “gate-keeper” who answers phone calls or home visits.
Seek out people who can share messages of hope and comfort. The last thing you need is someone who wants to share stories with negative outcomes. Avoid people who start their monologue with, “I know a man who…” and then proceed to tell you about this phantom person who didn’t do well. People who say, “You should hear about…” and share details of someone worse off should be shut down before they start.
And – few people find comfort in the thoughts that come after: “At least…”.
If you want to talk to someone who has a similar cancer to yours or who has completed treatment, the Canadian Cancer Society can connect you with a trained volunteer. It is sometimes easier to chat comfortably with a stranger than to a loved one who shares your fears and anxieties. You can register online or call the toll-free number ( below). There is also an online community for you and your loved ones to share your experiences and connect with others coping with cancer. To get started, simply enter “CancerConnection. ca” and create a profile.
Knowing there are supports available and that you have people to rely on, you can get through this and look ahead to the days when treatment is behind you and you are well again.
To find out more about what you can do during cancer treatment, please talk to an information specialist at 1-888-939-3333, visit the website at www.cancer.ca, or call the Canadian Cancer Society Community Office.