THE EMOTIONAL SIDE
BREATHE – Take a minute or a few days to compose yourself and get your bearings. Go do something you love — an activity you can lose yourself in, and think on things a moment before reaction and making decisions. Yes, it is easier said than done, but give it a try.
EDUCATE – If you are reading this, then you have begun to educate yourself, and good on you. Find out as much as you can about your particular type of cancer. Read up on different types of treatment available. Before you walk into the arena, know the game.
TRUST YOURSELF – If it feels wrong, most times it is. Once you have a grasp on our cancer, hold on to yourself for a minute. Consider who you are, what your desires are for your loved ones, and make decisions based upon your life and your choices — not on fear.
IT’S OKAY TO LOSE IT – Because control is not constant and sometimes we blink and fall apart, laugh, cry, yell, hide away with Netflix and junk food, go on a long hike, or just have yourself a PJ & Duvet Day. Get the venom out, and pick yourself up by bra straps, boots straps, whatever and face what there is to face. Remember, you handle it or it handles you — ignoring cancer will not make it go away.
BREAKING THE NEWS – is not easy. Nor is it the same for everyone. Some people will turn to Facebook and just put it out there, while others keep their diagnosis between a small circle of friends and family. No matter how you do it, always do what is right for you.
LONE WOLF OR PACK ANIMAL – Which one are you? Whether you are surrounded by your family or if you have just a few close friends it is a good thing to have someone “take the weight” sometimes. Again, do what is right for you. But a friend to speak to can mean the world.
PLOT A COURSE & STAY ON IT – Rush into nothing. But think hard about your treatment plan, discuss it with your doctor, get a second opinion if you like, then make a decision. Think about how you want to organize your life, and put as much of that into place. Map, road, go.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS – If you can live your life that way, it could be a great asset to you. Yes, cancer will change things. But if cancer changes everything, then what are you left with? Keep control of your life. Keep the little things. Keep the big things. But don’t let cancer take control your life.
CUT EVERYONE SOME SLACK, INCLUDING YOURSELF – You cannot predict how others around you will react either immediately or over time. The same is true for yourself. Some days are just better than others. This will take time, and the hands of some clocks will ball up into fists occasionally, but time goes on.
THERE IS ONLY SOME MUCH YOU CAN CONTROL – and the rest of it you just gotta let it go and what will be will be. You can’t yell at the sky about the rain, but you can open an umbrella.
THE MEDICAL SIDE
WHO, WHAT, WHERE, AND WHEN – As in WHO (you) have cancer, now deep breath…. WHAT kind of cancer do you have? WHERE is that cancer in my body and WHERE is it going? WHEN as in the stage I am at, my prognosis, my timeline.
MAKE IT PERSONAL – with your doctor. Don’t let yourself be just another chart. Do whatever you can to build a relationship between your provider and yourself so you can be comfortable asking questions.
NURSES ARE YOUR BEST FRIENDS – At the office or in the hospital, you will spend more time with your nurse than with your doctor. Nurses are on the front lines of cancer and are a wealth of information. They chart everything, so treat them like the gold they are.
WHAT, WHICH, WHY – WHAT – are the treatment options for your type of cancer and circumstances? WHICH treatment option is recommended for your type of cancer and circumstances? WHY is the doctor recommending that treatment? Is it because that is what is recommended, or because that treatment is best for you?
AND THE GOALS IS – to beat my cancer into remission? To stop my cancer from spreading? To give me a few more months? Tough questions. There is no way around it. But since there is no way around it, it is best to know up front what you are getting into.
HOW LONG & HOW BAD – will it be? How long will your treatment last? What kind of side effects can you expect from your treatment?
IS THERE A CLINICAL TRIAL FOR YOU – to participate in? Well, ask your doctor, sure. But doctors can’t know everything. We have direct access to all available clinical trials right here at no cost. Search this database and see which trial might work for you. Then talk to you doctor about it.
THE PRACTICAL SIDE
I ALWAYS WANTED TO – go diving in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef… then do it. Do stuff. Do all you can before you start treatment that will affect your health and limit your mobility.
ABOUT MY INSURANCE – What will it cover? What will it not cover? Know your policy inside and out. Turn to knowledgeable people for help, but don’t just assume everything is covered. Talk to the person at your doctor’s office who handles insurance. Ask them for help.
PAPERS IN ORDER – such as wills, bills of sale, business licenses, and investment papers. These things can’t be underestimated. The stress cancer can place on your significant other can be intense. Do not compound it with trying to sort out your business affairs.
WHAT ABOUT MY DOG – or cat, or horse? Most animals whose owners pass away wind up in a shelter. This is a fact. And many shelters euthanize based on space available. This is also a fact.
Make provisions for your animals well ahead of time. If you cannot find a friend or loved one to take your pet, then approach a rescue or no-kill facility.
But remember things cost money. Offer them cash with the animal or your car to sell — something. Because the cost of keeping your animal is expensive for them. PLEASE make provisions for your animals.
PetFinder, an online site linking shelters and rescue animals to new owners has an excellent page on providing for your pet’s future without you. Read it here.
END-OF-LIFE ISSUES – Yes, it is terrible to think about. But if you don’t know what’s coming, you will never know what hit you. Think about what you want, and then think about budgeting for it. Think about how you want decisions made in term of your care. If you cannot express your own wishes, then write that down. Make it legal.
The hope is things never go this far. But if they do, there is great comfort knowing you already took care of everything.