1. Talk with someone - Try someone you know, a professional counselor, religious figure, fellow cancer survivors or a support group. Find listeners who will accept your feelings without judgment.
2. Pick the right physician for YOU - Research and get recommendations for oncologists and surgeons. Identify important characteristics in a doctor - whether it is bedside manner or do you prefer someone that has a more direct and straightforward approach? Do you want someone who provides options to you or a physician that will make the decisions for you? Second opinions can be very valuable!
3. Limit information and research - Determine if gathering information and learning about your diagnosis empowers and provides hope or is it fueling your anxiety and worries. Limit resources in which you get your information. Ask your doctor, nurse or cancer community agency for sources of information such as websites and other agencies to gather further information.
4. Ask for help - People want to provide help and support. Sometimes caregivers can feel just as helpless. Give them a task (shopping, dog walking, cleaning errands). These websites help organize your planning. wwwtakethemameal.com and www.carecalendar.org
5. Bring along an advocate - Bring someone to medical appointments to help remember or write down information discussed. They can also give additional feedback to your physician regarding the changes or progress they have observed.
6. Be active in medical care - Ask for copies of your medical records at each doctor's appointment. Create a file organizing your medical tests, results, appointment, and prescriptions. This can be especially helpful when you are under more than one doctor's care. You can assist with your own care coordination and medication compliance. Write down questions before you meet with your doctor. Inform your doctor if you want to know or do not want to know your prognosis.
7. Create Reminders - Find poetry, mantras, bible verses, or quotes that speak courage, hope and strength to you. Keep them near and use in a time of need.
8. Preserve your time and energy - Say no when you do not feel like socializing. Consider saying, "No thanks but would it be okay if I call you when I want to join you"? Develop an "escape" plan for social events. Oftentimes, you are not sure how you will feel once you are at an event. If it is tiring updating everyone on how you are doing, there are websites (www.caringbridge.com) that can share your progress, feelings and experiences. You may feel empowered journaling your experiences or you may ask someone to update the blog on your behalf.
9. Be understanding and patient - You may notice a significant change in concentration, energy, and memory. Write things down, add extra time when driving to destination or accomplishing a task, and ask others to remind you of important tasks and appointments.
10. Focus on healing and not doing - Your checklists will start to look very different. Add self-care (take naps, listening to music, watch your favorite movie, spend time in nature, treat yourself to new lounge-wear). Make smaller, more realistic goals. Prioritize and delegate tasks as needed.
These are only suggestions. Some of these examples might help more or less during different part of your cancer experience. The most important thing to know is that not every one deals with cancer the same way. There is NO WRONG way to react to the diagnosis of cancer!
If you have questions or would like to further share how you are doing, please feel free to contact me. Counseling can sometimes be a safe place that allows you to process and transform feelings of anxiety, depression, grief, and helplessness into healing, hope, strength and growth.
Shannon Schiefer MA, LPC
4525 S. Lakeshore Dr. Suite 102
Tempe, AZ 85282