| Monday, September 22, 2008
| SEVEN WAYS TO COPE WITH CHEMO
|THE DRUGS USED TO TREAT CANCER can have different results in different people. They can be a miracle -- they cured my Hodgkin's disease -- or not. Side effects vary greatly too. Many of us approach chemo with fear, but a few steps can help you cope.
1. LEARN ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS
Some people want to know every possible side effects of chemotheraphy. Others want only a general overview so as not to become overly fearful. Both approaches are reasonable. Tell your doctor which you prefer. If you do encounter side effects, your oncology nurse, who is familiar with the drugs you're taking, will have specific ideas and recommendations about how to ease your discomfort.
2. MANAGE UNPREDICTABILITY
Reactions to chemotheraphy are unpredictable. One day you may be fine and the next day totally exhausted. The treatment you said through last month feels like too much today. Remember that you are receiving a powerful medical intervention and that it's reasonable if you can't do everything you once could. Remind others that you are not always at your best right now.
3. ADAPT HEALTH BEHAVIORS.
Some people resolve to stick to a new diet or exercise regime when they begin treatment. But chemotheraphy can affect both eating and physical activity. You may have no appetite, feel nauseous, or lack the energy to get to the kitchen. It helps to set modest goals. Take in enough fluids and eat a balanced diet of food. Use small spurts of energy for short walks and get plenty of sleep.
4. COPE WITH SADNESS
Many patients are still absorbing the shock of the diagnosis when chemotheraphy begins. Despair and hopelessness sit heavily on some days. It can be helpful to put these feelings into words by writing them down or talking to other. If you think your sadness will frighten or burden loved ones, confide in a trusted friend or a member of the clergy. But if you may want to talk with a mental-health professional who has experience with people undergoing chemotheraphy.
5. GET SUPPORT.
Family and friends can be a tremendous source of support. But sometimes you may feel so alone that your situation defies their understanding. Fortunately, there are many ways to connect with others who have gone through similar experiences. Local centers may provide a range of in-person opportunities to talk with others. Telephone-based or online support groups allow people to share information and encouragement.
6. HAVE PATIENCE.
While chemotheraphy targets your cancer, it also affects your thinking, you emotions, and your energy level. Most of the immediate effects of the drugs pass within hours or days, but the fatigue and mental fogginess often linger, making it difficult to resume normal life. This can be frustrating and discouraging. Most people find that these symptoms face over time.
7. FIND RELIEF.
While it may be difficult to feel comfortable in your body during this time, think back. What has helped you find relief in the past? Writing your thought down? Prayer? Reading mystery novels? Watching sitcoms? Listening to music? Chemotheraphy is new to you, but you bring experience in getting through tough times. You know best what has worked for you. Draw in your expertise about yourself to find some moments of peace.
Chemotheraphy often shrinks our world to this body, this treatment, this pain. But each of us is more than our disease. While our lives have been profoundly changed, all the experiences that brought us here remain. Our aim now is to take steps -- big and small -- that will get us through the days with all the grace we can muster, all the support we need, and all the dignity we deserve.
(Source: PARADEMAG by Jessie Gruman a three time cancer survivor and the author of "AfterShock: What To Do When the Doctor Gives You -- or Someone You Love -- A Devastating Diagnosis" (Walker & Company, 2007)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 3:22 PM