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section GaramChai features Medical articles by Dr.Kumaresh
A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating. It is nearly impossible
to prepare for and difficult to adequately describe what you
may be feeling in response. You might be surprised to learn
that you are not alone in your feelings and that many people
have the same responses.
reliable information about your disease and your treatment
options is important. Choosing a health care team, knowing
which questions to ask, and understanding how to live with
and beyond cancer will help you learn to take control of your
situation. Understanding your disease is one of the strongest
weapons you have in fighting your illness. Gathering information
about your cancer and its treatment will reduce uncertainty
and assist you in understanding your situation.
do I feel this way?
There is no typical way to feel when you are told that you
have cancer. Everyone feels and responds differently. Some
people experience several emotions at once, ranging from fear,
sadness, or even anger, to motivation and determination. There
is, however, one feeling that seems consistent for many people
who are diagnosed with cancer and that is a loss of control.
One way to regain a sense of control in your life is by learning
as much as you can about your disease.
Becoming a self-advocate is one way to approach your
diagnosis and treatment. Being self-supportive requires that
you understand what is best for you. You may want to consider
spending some time evaluating your needs to determine how
you would like to approach your treatment.
to become acquainted with your needs is through self-assessment.
Your experience with cancer is a very personal journey, and
it is helpful to try to understand your feelings. Getting
acquainted with your needs is a good first step in approaching
your cancer therapy.
when to ask for help is another important aspect of being
a self-advocate. As the primary supporter of your cause, it
is up to you to determine when and whom to ask for help. Consider
allowing yourself to depend on others for awhile. Sometimes,
learning to ask for help is just as important as receiving
it. Accept that people really do want to help you and that
by accepting their help, you may both benefit. Save your energy
for yourself, your family, and friends. You may want to consider
sharing your diagnosis with others. Many people feel comfortable
telling family and close friends about their diagnosis of
cancer, but choosing to share this information and the people
you want to share it with is a personal decision. You may
find that an even stronger support system will be available
to you once you begin to communicate with others.
a health care team
Finding the best available health care is crucial. Your oncologist
(specialist in cancer care) should be someone who listens
carefully to your needs and concerns, relates to you with
consideration and respect, and will work with you to select
the cancer treatment that is right for you. Remember, building
a comfortable relationship with your health care team is an
important part of your cancer care.
questions to ask when choosing a health care team
1. Am I comfortable with my health care team? Do they make
me feel like I am a central part of the decision-making process?
2. Does the doctor communicate to me in terms that I can understand?
3. Am I comfortable with the information that is provided
4. Do I feel comfortable asking questions? Does the doctor
listen to my concerns?
5. When and how can I contact my doctor?
your treatment options
Determining which particular treatment is right for you depend
on several factors, including your general physical health,
the type of cancer you have and at what stage it was diagnosed,
and the goal of therapy that you and your doctor have agreed
upon. If your goal of therapy is to treat your cancer as aggressively
as possible, your treatment may be different from that of
someone whose disease is more advanced or severe or who cannot
tolerate certain side effects of therapy. Some people may
determine that their goal of therapy is to be as comfortable
as possible or to maintain their normal activities of daily
living for as long as possible. Choosing a treatment with
few side effects or choosing not to receive treatment may
also be an option for you to discuss with your doctor.
options could include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation
therapy, and hormonal therapy, or a combination of any
of these, depending on the type and stage of cancer that you
have. With some tumors, surgical removal of all or as much
tumor as possible is considered the best treatment depending
on the size and location of the tumor and whether the cancer
cells have spread to other parts of your body, referred to
as metastasis. If there is evidence that tumor cells have
spread or if some of the tumor could not be removed during
surgery, then one or more of the other available therapies
may be used.
beyond a cancer diagnosis
As your treatment nears its end, you may experience many feelings,
just as you did when you were informed of your cancer diagnosis.
As your last treatment is completed, you may expect that things
will suddenly return to normal and you may go back to your
life as you knew it before you were diagnosed with cancer.
You may discover, as many cancer survivors do, that you need
to establish a "new normal."
you would like your daily routine to return to the way it
was before your illness, but you may find that you are more
likely to have a new set of expectations and priorities as
a result of your cancer, its treatment, and redefining your
life after diagnosis.
As a cancer survivor, you may be introduced to a whole new
set of concerns such as fear of cancer recurrence, body image
changes, financial, and work-related concerns. A major concern
for cancer survivors is that their cancer will return. As
your cancer treatment comes to an end and the time for your
checkup approaches you may feel anxious. Be sure to ask your
doctor what symptoms you should watch for and immediately
report anything unusual. Your physical appearance may have
changed as a result of your cancer or its treatment. Although
these physical changes may be hard to accept at times, it
is important for you to try to accept these changes as part
of your "new normal".
not have to give up intimacy and affection during cancer therapy.
Communication with your significant other is extremely important
during this time. Providing each other with love, support,
and comfort is important at this time in your life. The people
you have met along the way, friendships you may have developed,
and connections with your family and friends are all a part
of your future. Embrace the future.
for communicating effectively Prepare
for your appointment. Write down questions when you think
of them and take them with you to discuss with your doctor.
as clear as you can when asking questions or communicating
you bring articles or information you have printed from the
Internet to your appointment, highlight important information
that you would like to discuss.
carefully to what you are being told. Take notes of your conversation.
not be afraid to ask for clarification if you do not understand
some of the information that you receive. Ask questions until
you are satisfied that you understand the information being
provided to you.
for the Caregiver Arrange
for planned time away from the task of twenty-four hour care.
things just for you!
your problem with anyone who will listen.
isolation, as it may lead to depression.
NOT cut off ties to non-cancer related activities.
may wish to bring along a list of questions to ask the doctor.
Don't leave until you have received understandable answers
you feel confident to share with others.
the patient in daily activities, even if all they can do is
positive and remember life is precious.
Cancer is a twenty-four hour affair. As with other long term
illnesses, you may become emotionally drained as you care
for your loved one and worry about the changes that may occur
in him or her. You can take care of yourself by:
for the PatientBe
kind to yourself. Focus on what you can do.
out to others. Reaching out to someone else can reduce stress.
be afraid to say no. Polite but firm refusals help you stay
in control of your life.
about your concerns.
to pace yourself. Stop before you get tired.
in sometimes. Not every argument is worth winning.
enough exercise. It's a great way to get rid of tension in
a positive way.
time for activities you enjoy.
priorities. You can't do everything at once.
one thing at a time. If you're feeling overwhelmed, divide
your list into manageable pieces.
a plan can reduce the stress of the problem.
Krishnamoorthy, M.S (ENT)
Head and Neck Surgery Fellowship (Buffalo, USA)
Neurotology & Skull Base Surgery Fellowship (Cincinnati,
Senior Consultant in ENT - Head and Neck Surgeon and Skull Base
Apollo Hospitals, 154/11, Bannerghatta Road, BANGALORE 560 076,
Phone: 91-(0) - 99002 36819