A Few Practical Matters
Should I continue my normal activities?
The general rule of thumb is: When you feel good - do it. When you don't - take care of yourself.
The type of cancer you have and the treatment you are receiving will be determining factors.
These guidelines may help:
- Get adequate rest so fatigue doesn't leave you unable to cope emotionally
- Surround yourself with the family members and friends who bring you happiness, and try to maintain your usual role in their lives
- Live as normally as you can, while remembering that "doing" is NOT the same as "over doing"
- Be prepared for down days when pain or the side effects of treatment may tire you, and you don't feel up to participating in activities you would otherwise enjoy
- Recognize your limitations, but celebrate your capabilities more - laugh, love and find pleasure wherever you can
What about exercise?
Set your own limits. Maintain the level of exercise you are used to and can handle without undue fatigue. However, if you were physically active before your cancer diagnosis and treatment - an avid runner or aerobics dancer, for example - you may need to reduce your exercise regimen for awhile. Check with your doctor to discuss ways to maintain a fitness program during recovery.
Should I change my diet?
If you think that your eating habits could be healthier, by all means adjust your diet appropriately. Studies show that people who eat a normal, balanced diet during cancer treatment are better able to handle the side effects and may even be able to withstand higher doses. Good nutrition will keep up your strength, rebuild tissues the disease may break down, and help your body's natural defenses to fight infection. During treatment, you may want to make adjustments to accommodate side effects such as vomiting. Check with your physician, support group, or local library for a guide to good nutrition, or contact the FMH Wellness Center's nutritionists for a dietary plan.
How will cancer affect my relationships with family, friends and co-workers?
The people closest to you will be affected differently by the news that you have cancer. The visible results of chemotherapy or surgery, such as hair loss or a scar, will also cause varying responses. Some people will rally to your side, offering generous support, guidance and love. Some will make painful comments without meaning to hurt you. Most will be awkward around you, especially at first.
No matter how disturbing some of these reactions may be, it will be up to you to take charge.
Do what you can to put people at ease. Remind yourself they are doing the best they can. Be as honest and open about cancer - and your feelings - as you comfortably can. Ask for help with small things, such as running an errand, dropping by with a favorite dessert, or simply coming for a visit. Be prepared for disappointments, however. Some people may find the reality of cancer so difficult to face that they eventually stop visiting or calling - even if your cancer is treatable and the hope of cure is excellent. This may be a time to turn to your support network for understanding and companionship.
Will it affect my job?
If a disability or side effect of treatment makes certain tasks difficult to perform, talk with your employer about ways to make modifications. If your employer makes it difficult for you to do your job, remember there are laws to protect you against job discrimination. Speak with your company's personnel manager or your physician, or contact the Maryland State Department of Labor or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Will insurance cover my medical expenses?
Every insurance policy is different. Read your policy carefully. Ask your insurance agent for explanations. Keep accurate up-to-date records of the medical care you receive. Get help from a friend or family member whose judgment you trust. If your health insurance provider does not sufficiently address your concerns, consult the State Insurance Commissioner.