Table of Contents
Living With Cancer
Methods for handling the physical, emotional, financial, and other stresses of a cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis of cancer is a life-altering event, no matter the type of cancer and its prognosis. Few other health conditions evoke such intense emotions. Though each individual responds uniquely, cancer evokes in everyone a recognition of vulnerability and mortality.
It is important for each individual to be able to express his or her feelings, fears, anger, worries, and hopes. Some people want to talk about their cancer and their feelings, some people deny their diagnosis or its seriousness, and some people retreat to introspection.
The time of treatment is often very intense, with most of the focus in the person’s life shifting to the treatment and its myriad details. Many people find themselves suddenly and completely immersed in an existence that revolves around doctors, hospitals, tests, and procedures.
There may be concerns about health insurance coverage or payment for doctor bills, hospital services, treatment, and medications. Hospitals have financial counselors and social workers who can help work through details such as preauthorizations, coverage requirements, and private and government programs that subsidize or pay for care for people who lack the resources.
Many people are able to return to full, active lives after cancer treatment, and their outward appearance may seem the same as before the diagnosis.
However, coping with cancer is a lifelong process for most people. Even when treatment concludes, residual effects may remain as reminders of the cancer.
People who had surgery have visible scars and may have deformities, nerve damage, blood vessel or circulatory disruptions, lymphedema, or alterations such as colostomy or reconstruction. As well, there often are ongoing health-care needs, such as doctor visits, medications, blood tests, and imaging procedures. Most people worry, no matter how healthy they are or how many years go by after treatment, about the possibility that the cancer could come back.
Who, and How Much, to Tell About the Cancer
No one expects a diagnosis of cancer; when it strikes, it completely disrupts the fabric of everyday life. The cancer diagnosis also affects family members, friends, and co-workers. The person who has cancer must decide who, and how much, to tell about the cancer.
Often, treatment requires time away from work and the person may not be able to return to full work activities for quite some time. People who have young children at home are likely to need extended help from family and friends during treatment and recovery. Older people who live alone may also need support with transportation, housekeeping, and cooking.
Despite the all-consuming nature of cancer diagnosis and treatment, it is important for the person to remain engaged in activities of life that bring relaxation, comfort, and joy, such as spending time with family and friends, participating in favorite recreations and hobbies, or traveling.
Many people find peace and calm in yoga, meditation, or prayer. Because there are dimensions to having cancer that only other people who have cancer can fully understand, support groups provide a way for the person who has cancer to share their feelings and experiences.
See also LIFESTYLE AND HEALTH; QUALITY OF LIFE.