First, it sucks to be diagnosed with cancer. Let’s just take a moment and acknowledge it for what it is — a shitty situation that you now have contend with. I’m sorry that you have to go through this. How you approach your journey will be all your own, but here’s some practical advice that I hope you find helpful.
- Attitude is everything. There’s scientific evidence that the way we think can absolutely affect our biology. (And OF COURSE you can have a pity party, and scream, and cry, and feel the emotions of this terrifying disease. But then take a few deep breaths and carry on.)
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”― Carlos Castaneda
- Gather your people. Because you shouldn’t do this alone. I hope you have as much support available to you as I do. If you don’t, there are organizations who can help you find resources. If you do, this is where you can mobilize your friends and family, so they feel like they’re doing something. (Everyone is going feel helpless; this helps them feel less so.) I used an online scheduling tool to allow people to sign up to drive me to chemo appointments, doctor visits, etc. You could even put a weekly “friend visit” on there that ensures you get to hang out with someone at least once a week.
- Consider creating a blog. It’s super easy to do on any number of platforms and you can make it as public or private as you like. In my case, it has helped me disseminate information to many people at once instead of having to have the same conversation over and over again. (That alone makes it worth it.) It has also been a reference tool and a journaling outlet.
What you never hear about chemotherapy
Everybody and their mom knows that chemo may make you nauseous. And there are over a dozen different nausea medications available to help you. What seems to be glossed over is the fact that chemo can make you incredibly constipated. And those anti-nausea drugs? Their side affects can include constipation. Start taking stool softener when you start chemo and take it regularly! Take fiber supplementation too. Ask for anti-nausea medication that doesn’t cause constipation (Zofran does; Decadron doesn’t). And, if it’s an option in your state, use medical marijuana. That has been a life-saver for me.
A note on nausea & what to do if get you behind the 8-ball
Like pain, staying ahead of nausea is the name of the game. Know that sublingual anti-nausea medications exist — if you can’t keep anything down, you can get a prescription for medication that dissolves beneath your tongue.
Did somebody say anxiety?
The stress and anxiety that comes with a diagnosis can become overwhelming. Going through treatment can become overwhelming. This is all TOTALLY NORMAL. Your oncologist can prescribe anti-anxiety medication while you’re going through treatment. Do yourself a favor, and discuss this option if you find yourself on edge more often than not.
- Read “Anticancer, A New Way of Life” by
- Consider a meditation practice. My app of choice is Headspace, but there are plenty of other available options.
- Check out my friends & family page for ways they can help.
Remember, at the end of the day, this is your journey and the choices you make have to first be what’s best for you. If you need to cancel on something last minute, or want to stay in bed all day, or want to go run a marathon, do your thing! This time is about focusing on you and getting better. So take care of yourself.
PS: You can do this.