Living with Cancer
Emotions and Thoughts
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a devastating thing no matter how young or old you are. Whether it is an early diagnosis or an advanced one, there are a whirlwind of thoughts (“This can’t be happening to me”) and emotions that have to be processed. Don't be afraid to talk to loved ones, friends, doctor/specialist, counsellors and your social worker. You will undoubtedly have many questions and concerns, so don't be afraid to ask so that you are armed with as much information as possible in order to tackle the cancer.
If you find yourself constantly having negative thoughts, please speak up to your carer, counsellor or doctor. They are there to help you in any way they can, but they are not mind-readers so it is important to communicate. It may be very hard to say that you are having negative thoughts, but sharing this is the first step to getting better. Cancer does not only affect you physically, but emotionally as well. Most hospitals have psychologist and counsellors available to speak to when you need it.
Positive thoughts and hope really does make a different to your state of mind. Do not underestimate willpower, positive thinking and a can-do attitude. It is generally agreed in the medical community that a positive outlook assists in recovery and treatment, as negative thoughts can take a toll on your body and increase stress levels. It is important to keep your body as strong as possible to handle cancer treatment.
Your Multidisciplinary Team
Much time is spent with your multidisciplinary team preparing a targeted approach to your specific needs. This team would usually include your specialist nurse coordinator or clinical nurse consultant, dietician, gastroenterologist and or gastrointestinal surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, counsellor, speech pathologist, and social worker.
An important thing to remember is “Don’t be afraid to ask” This applies to any or all of this team; they are there to help you and answer any questions you may have. If you’re not sure about something or just want to double check, it’s OK to ask them.
This applies to your partners or carers also. Often they have very important questions that they need answers to in regards to how to care and they may think of questions that you may not have. For more information, please visit the How to Care page.
Keep an Appointment Diary
Your daily routine can become quite hectic so it’s also a good idea to keep a diary of your appointments and a list of your medications with you at all times. A useful tip is to program alarms on your phone of when you need to take certain medication at different times. It's quite common for cancer patients to have to take an array of mediction several times a day at specific time intervals, and it is very easy to feel overwhelmed in trying to remember when to take which medication. Keeping alarms on your phone will take that pressure of remembering a million different things away and ensure that you don't miss a dose of treatment.
If you find that you do not want to go through with a certain treatment, or you have certain plans for the future, or if you want to be part of a cancer research trial, then let this be known to your immediate loved ones. It may be the case that they may disagree with your wishes or offer alternate opinions. It is a good idea to listen to your loved ones and take things on board to aid your decisions, but remember to do what you think is right for you and keep communication open with your loved ones that they also need to respect your own wishes. Always think really hard about your decisions regarding treatment and don't make a drastic decision like cancelling treatment for example, without speaking to the appropriate people like your specialist, counsellor, social worker, primary carer, etc. Think things through properly, gather all the knowledge you can get, listen to professional advice and listen to your heart to aid your decisions to make sure that you don't do anything you may regret.
Living with Uncertainty
Every oesophageal cancer patient who has undergone surgery, or treatment, lives with the fear that the cancer will return. Managing this anxiety is perhaps the greatest challenge of the cancer experience. While there are no easy answers to this problem, there are many effective strategies available to help cancer patients deal with this challenge. Below are some suggestions to help manage anxiety and rise beyond the fear of uncertainty:
Accept that you have real cause for optimism.
Block fear from your consciousness.
Compartmentalize your fear.
Keep yourself busy by continuing with your daily routines.
Focus on positive thinking.
Regularly practice relaxation exercises.
Actively participate in your recovery.
Join a cancer-support group.
Exercise and a healthy diet.
Read survivor stories and other inspirational material.
Remember that life is to be lived - although this is a difficult time, remember to enjoy the little things and laugh as much as possible.
Seriously consider having regular meetings with a counsellor or psychologist. Please do not underestimate the emotional side-effects of cancer. If any of your friends or family members are finding it particularly difficult to cope, also recommend that they see a counsellor or psychologist.
Take anti-anxiety medication, if necessary (note: please consult your doctor before making a decision to take medication).
It is important to be aware that despite your best efforts to manage your fear and anxiety, there will be times where your emotion may gain the upper hand. This is normal, and please do not interpret it as a failure or weakness on your part. Many people tend to look at the physical effects of cancer on your body, and tend to forget the emotional effects. Try to think of the physical and emotional as going hand in hand when undergoing treatment.