If you have just recently been diagnosed with cancer, chances are your mind is at a standstill. How do you push through shock, scary feelings, anger, depression, and anxiety to become a cancer warrior?
A cancer warrior is a self-advocate – a person who takes an active role in their own cancer care. Being a self-advocate gives you more control at a time when nothing is certain. It helps you gather information to make more informed decisions for yourself about your cancer journey. The decisions are based on knowledge obtained by your own research and from what your doctors can tell you, with input from your support team.
This team is for support – mental, physical, and emotional. Your first supporters can help you with the hard first decisions – who to tell, how to tell them. Phone? Text? Facebook? Letters?
They are a source of thoughts, prayers, and warm wishes which help keep you from being sucked into a black hole of dwelling on the worst possibilities. For your innermost support team, you need friends and relations who will let you vent, and who understand how scary it can be to have no control over some things.
You need people who make little, helpful gestures – food, care packages, books, socks, notes, memes, bad jokes – whatever is comforting to you. You need others who can give advice and information that help you shape your decisions.
Remember that you are the captain of this team. You know yourself better than anyone else does. This group is to help you create the course of action that works best for you personally – not just the national average. Medical professionals offer options, but as a self-advocate you have the final say.
Unfortunately, as time goes on you might fire team members, if they drain you with negativity or do not recognize what you really want and need. Remember, you can always get second opinions if you are unsure how to proceed.
Support groups look different for different people, but they usually include:
Over 100 types of support organizations can be found at this governmental site.
A place to find those with the same kind of cancer experience: https://imermanangels.org/get-support/.
Relationships can change in a cancer journey. You may be saddened to find some who are unable to deal with all the implications of cancer and who fade away from your life. At the same time, you may find others who are relative strangers, who you had not heard from in years, who offer gentle support in ways that touch your heart. So don’t be afraid to reach out.
The other piece of support, to update regularly, is education. You can get diverted by the incredibly large amount of information available, including a lot of opinions presented as fact, and some scams designed to get you to buy their “miracle” product or program.
The National Cancer Institute has good guidelines that will help you establish the difference between the good, the bad, and the misleading kind of information available, while you are searching for answers.
Armed with those guidelines, the next step is to understand your own diagnosis – the type of cancer, what the staging means, what treatments are available, and what support groups are helpful. The NCI website has some good, factual information in a condensed form that will let you get a quick handle on what you have, staging, and current officially recognized treatments.
While the government is good at summarizing Standard of Care conventional therapies, it is not willing to recommend anything else without extremely overwhelmingly positive research evidence.
This includes lifestyle aspects such as diet, exercise, and some complementary therapies regularly recommended by medical organizations such as MD Anderson, Mayo Clinic, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) – all with cancer doctors who are actively practicing their specialty.
Because there is so much additional information available from ASCO, it can be confusing at first to find specific types of facts you may be interested in after you have absorbed the basics. See the Resources below for other helpful links to pages in the ASCO website.
For in-depth information about chemotherapy and its side effects, all in one place, look at Chemocare.
The biggest thing to realize about cancer is, every case of cancer is a little different, and every cancer patient is a little different. The standard of care that doctors must go by is what works for most people.
Even methods or drugs that are used with a high rate of success are ones that work for most, but not for all. When you are researching your options, if you see something that is for “everyone” or “all cancers,” or “100%,” ignore it and go on to the next item.
Because so many things are happening in your body, and because cancer is constantly changing, combinations of methods work better than relying on one single thing. Even if you only use the extremely short combination of one thing for the cancer, and a second thing that is for quality of life, you will have a far better cancer journey than one where everyone is concentrating on treating the tumor and not treating you also.
The more diverse, good things that you can use, and also that do not interfere with each other (this is important!), the easier the journey will be.
So, assemble your support team – for physical, emotional, and factual support. Learn about healing – mind, body, and spirit, and any side effects you might face. Plan your journey and take those first steps.
You got this!
A section on support systems:
Questions to ask your support team:
Being a self-advocate, with links to the kinds of questions to ask your oncologist as well as other things to consider on this page:
Foods that are connected with lower incidence of certain types of cancers:
A blog featuring podcasts from 2 oncology dieticians, with transcripts. Here is the one with the general recommendations for higher amounts of fruits and vegetables than the American Cancer Institute recommendations:
A good discussion of complementary therapies which, research has shown, can help a cancer warrior with a better quality of life:
If you are a Cancer Warrior, what are your favorite places on the internet for information about your cancer? If you are part of a Cancer Warrior’s support group, what websites have been helpful for you?
Tags Medical Conditions