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How to Get Through Cancer Treatment

how to get through cancer treatment

Cancer treatment is a long, trying, sometimes brutal process that requires a resiliency and determination that many people can feel start to weaken as treatment goes on. The right attitude can go a long way when being treated for cancer. It ensures that you stay on top of your treatment, that you visit your doctor, are honest with him or her about your symptoms and needs, and helps you stay positive during a time that is very emotionally and cognitively taxing in addition to being physically taxing. Anyone who tells you that cancer treatment is easy is not being transparent. Cancer treatment is difficult, but not unendurable. Here is how to get through cancer treatment:

1. Half of the battle is mental.

You can choose to give up or you can choose to soldier onward. This is a phenomenon that has been well documented in cancer treatment. Those who choose to succeed are more likely to get to the finish line. It is the same concept that makes the human body do incredible things like run marathons. Endurance is much more of a mental game than a physical one. Even if you feel like you physically cannot go on, you have the ability to mentally rally your strength and keep going.

2. Understand your treatment options.

Seeking out the best treatment should be the very first step after diagnosis. Look for a doctor in your area that specializes in your type of cancer. If there is no local doctor that specializes in your diagnosis, consider going out of town for treatment or look for the best overall oncologist your area has to offer. You want to get a good idea of what treatment options are available to you before you make any decisions. Ask your chosen doctor not only what s/he recommends, but also about all of the treatment options you have to choose from. With cancer, the main options are to have surgery and then radiation or chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or targeted therapy.

3. Learn about what you can expect.

Depending on what type of treatment you and your doctor have chosen, it is time to start learning as much as you can about what you can expect with that treatment.

a. Radiation: With radiation treatment, you are likely going to see your skin drying out or becoming discolored. You might develop itchiness at the treatment site. Moisturizing your skin or using a cream that contains hydrocortisone or aloe vera is a good way to minimize that itching. You will probably want to stick to loose clothing during your treatment, simply because clothing can irritate your skin, which will only lead to more itching.

b. Chemo: When you choose chemo as your treatment, you will want to choose something comfortable to wear when you are receiving your treatments. Many patients spend the entire day at the hospital, so wear something that you will be comfortable in during the treatment. Also, ask the nurses on the chemo unit if they have a popsicle or some ice cubes that can cool down your mouth and hydrate it during the treatment. Many chemo patients develop sores in their mouth from treatment. Sucking on something cold and wet helps prevent this.

4. Build your support system.

Now is the time to rely on your friends and family. If you do not have any close family that lives nearby, you can probably find a support group or, even better, connect with other people who are having the same treatments, at the same time as you have your treatments. Having a support system is very important during this time. While you may not want to talk about what is happening with your cancer (you may feel as though you talk about it enough with your doctors and relatives), it is still nice to have a listening ear when you need one. It is also nice to have someone to rely on if you need an errand run or something done that you are just not up to doing yourself.

5. Focus on right now.

It’s easy to start to think about the future and to start to worry about it. Any serious illness can compel you to start to think about your future and what it might look like. Focusing too much of your energy on the future and not enough of it on the present is dangerous. Many people who start looking to the future become defeatist. They become depressed and angry about their prospects or the possibility of succumbing to the disease. You need to focus on what is happening right now in your life and in your treatment. Take each day at a time and each treatment at a time.

6. Fight cancer like a tangible enemy.

Cancer is a real enemy, but you will often hear cancer survivors personifying cancer. Talking about cancer like a beast that you have to fight and conquer in order to prevail gives you a very real mental image and provides you with something that you can trash talk or bully. It gives voice to your internal hatred of the disease and helps you to remove the disease from your self mentally. While it might not have any scientific basis, thinking of cancer as a tangible enemy that you have to defeat gives you something more concrete to rail against.

Cancer treatment is a big thing. It is one of the biggest (and scariest) challenges people deal with in their lives. With the right support system and mentality, however, you can fight it successfully. These tips will help you get through cancer treatment and move on with your life.

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Cope Better Therapy

Lori provides counseling to adults and couples in a comfortable environment in Rittenhouse Square. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MbSR), she helps individuals live fuller lives.


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