Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Regaining Control After A Cancer Diagnosis

Loss of control is a common feeling for cancer patients. A cancer diagnosis presents many challenges for you and your loved ones. Most aspects of your life are going to be temporarily interrupted or disurpted.

At first, most people diagnosed with cancer will need some time to adjust to the news, think twice about what is most important in their lives, and find support from loved ones.

For many, this time is a very difficult one, full of emotion - feelings such as disbelief, shock, fear, guilt, and anger are all normal. These feelings use up a lot of mental energy, which can make it hard to absorb and understand all of the medical information being given to you. It will probably take some time for you to come to terms with your diagnosis and treatment plan, both physically and emotionally digesting the long term implications for your health and ultimately your life.

People with cancer may feel disconnected from their bodies and may be less in control of it's functions. Tending to your medical care disrupts usual routines. The side effects of treatment (fatigue, post surgical pain, altered taste, dry mouth, nausea, weight loss or weight gain among others) may affect your ability to socialize and participate in your usual activities of daily living. Try to remind yourself that many of these disruptions are temporary and will fade into memory in due time.

Asking questions about your diagnosis may help you to feel more in control. Some questions to ask might be:

  • What is my diagnosis exactly ? What type of cancer do I have ? What stage ?
  • What is the standard of care for this condition ? What treatment do you recommend for me ?
  • Are there other treatment alternatives ?
  • What are the benefits of these treatments vs my recommended treatment plan ?
  • What are the risks of my treatment plan ? What are the alternative treatment option risks ?
  • What medicines can I expect to take and why ?
  • What medicines are you giving me now ? What for ?
  • How should I expect to feel during treatment ?
  • What side effects, if any, can I expect to have ?
  • What can be done about side effects ?
Bring your notes with you to appointments to help you remember what you wanted to ask or tell your provider. When you get instructions from your provider, write them down. Ask for information in writting if possible. Make sure you understand them before you leave the office. Then follow them exactly. You may also want to keep written notes on any health questions and concerns you may have.

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