How to Enjoy Your Cancer Journey

Four Parts:Dealing with DiagnosisReacting After DiagnosisMaking Life ChangesGetting Emotional Support

Cancer - the gift you didn't want and can't return. You can't get your money back. Your body has betrayed you. Feeling angry, scared, depressed? Don't bother. It isn't all bad. This can be the adventure of a lifetime. Treat it as such and survive with a smile on your face.

Part 1
Dealing with Diagnosis

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    Go into the meeting with your doctor prepared. Take someone with you if you can. Even if you sincerely believe that you won't be diagnosed with cancer. Either way you can go to the pub to celebrate or to have a bit of a wake. Also, take a notebook. Be prepared to ask questions.
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    Prepare yourself, emotionally. The doctor has placed a box of tissues on the desk, in reach of your right hand. That is when you know the news isn't good. The doctor will probably start off by telling you that the news isn't good, but you have already guessed that, otherwise why would the tissues be there? Whether you break down and sob wildly, or hold back the tears, the diagnosis is the same one: CANCER.
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    Take notes! This is the moment when you first start getting befuddled, so much information comes your way and in such a short space of time. Oh for a diary, a recording device, or a camera! That way you can make notes, get it all recorded so you can go back later and digest this bomb slowly and calmly. But that doesn't happen, instead the medical team talk and talk at you, hand you a pile of documents, and send you reeling on your way.

Part 2
Reacting After Diagnosis

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    Go to the pub. Go to the pub or out for a meal, or even a coffee. You deserve this. You have just been told the worst news there is, and you are only just starting out! Today you have been prodded and pushed, stabbed and probed. The first cuts are already on your body. You have been abused, badly, and the product of all this abuse is an unwanted diagnosis. So go out, try to have a laugh, get a bit sozzled. Cry a bit as well. This is day 1 and there are many days to go, and some of them won't be pleasant, so make the most of this day. Soon you are going to step onto a rollercoaster that you can't get off until the trip is over, so for today, while you are still the one in control, enjoy.
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    Tell everyone. You must tell everyone in your life. No-one wants to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately that is what you have to be. This is your news, and only you can tell it. Be prepared, others will cry more than you have, others will go silent for just that little bit longer than is normal. No-one is going to believe you at first. At this stage you are the one who is caring for everyone - don't worry, their time will come to reciprocate.
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    Make time for research. Researching your cancer and your planned treatment gives you some control. So now you are waiting to get on the ride, and you are frightened and full of despair. Use this time to do some research; you will forget most of it but reading and researching helps you to feel that you have some control over what is about to happen to you. As part of your research, find out what you will need to carry you through. This process is essential as it leads you to retail therapy!
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    Use retail therapy to your advantage. Yes it is time to buy stuff. If you are going to lose your hair you will need turbans, and hats and scarves and caps. These are all available on-line and you can spend many hours planning your new look. Then buy some things online, that way you get lots of little parcels coming in the mail. It is just like Christmas or your birthday!
    • Think of other things you will need - if you are a woman you can justify buying lots of nail polish (to protect your precious nails from the sun) and expensive face creams. If you fear losing your hair, buy sweet almond oil. Male or female this oil will soothe your poor sensitive skull. Buy some fake tears from the chemist - your eyes may go very dry and these will help. Get pineapple juice, water may taste disgusting after the chemo starts, but pineapple juice tends to taste okay, even if diluted, and you need to try to drink as much liquid as you can to wash that chemo through your body.

Part 3
Making Life Changes

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    Take someone with you when you go to chemo. This step isn't essential but it can really help. If you have someone who is inherently silly in your life, take them. Chemo is a day out, a nice comfy chair, nurses hovering round you, and you are on a ward where everyone shares a similar problem, The staff soon get to know your name. Make sure you learn their names! That way you are part of the gang and not the new kid all the time.
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    Take all the tablets they give you. This is no time to be brave. The chemo staff don't want you feeling nauseous and being sick. Tell then if this is happening -ring the emergency number on your purple book if you have one. Get more tablets if you need them and take them! Food is going to start tasting weird, and you will stop liking wine, and chocolate, and coffee and tea, and all the stuff you like. That is bad enough, especially as right now you need to look after your nutrition, so you don't want to be nauseous on top of all that. So take the tablets and try to keep the nausea at a minimum as now it is time to find out what you can eat!
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    Eat boring old plain food. Surprisingly you may find that you like the plain stuff. No chillies, no sauce. But peas and carrots and corn and grilled fish etc. Now that is a different matter. They taste great! Don't expect variety. When you find something you like the taste of and can tolerate, stock up on it. Make sure you eat it, it won't be of much use when it is in the fridge or the cupboard.
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    Walk every day. Enjoy every day. It will be hard to get out every day and do some exercise. This is hard, there will be so many days when you just don't want to be bothered, but make the effort, even if you think you can't. A little walk, which might turn into a longer walk, is part of your treatment. Sun on your skin, fresh air in your lungs, seeing other people, watching the birds flying, just for now live life as a tourist; you won't be here for long so make sure there are some good memories to take back to your ordinary life when this trip is over.
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    Rest when you need to. Don't worry about doing too much sleeping. Sleeping is lovely! And your body heals when you are sleeping so it is all part of the trip. Make sure your sheets are nice and your pillow is comfy. Read, watch TV, see some movies (cinema or on the TV it really doesn't matter), this is time out from the usual 9 to 5 so make the most of it.

Part 4
Getting Emotional Support

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    Laugh as much as you can. Life is still wonderful, and laughter will help you to overcome cancer. A smile on your face is your best weapon. If you don't have a fun friend, take a funny book, or go home and watch a funny movie. As far as possible, ensure that laughing is part of each day.
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    Spend as much time with friends as you can. This is important. Don't cut people off, let them visit you, or ring you, or email, Skype, FaceTime whatever. You will find that your friends take a step back, this isn't because they don't care, they do, but they aren't sure whether they are welcome. Let them know they are welcome and you are thinking of them as much as they are thinking of you. Keep them up to date with what is happening, and if you feel up to meeting up with them, then make sure you do exactly that.
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    Be open to new people. Try out some new things. A lot of new people will cross your path, and most of them are going to be very nice. Make eye contact, talk, tell jokes, tell stories, listen. These friends are also on the ride with you, you will all go your separate ways when the ride finishes, but for now you are sharing something unique. This is something that makes you just that little bit special. Don't worry about allowing yourself to feel special, brave, unique, superior, You are, you are on the ride, albeit unwillingly, but you are surviving the horrible ups and downs. You deserve to be a bit full of yourself.
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    Let it go when the ride finishes and get on with your life. You have been given a second chance. Not everyone gets that opportunity. Make sure you give something back, that you make the most of this second life, the one you wouldn't have if you had lived in earlier times. This one is yours and yours alone.
    • Make the next part of your life wonderful. You and you alone get to design the ride from now on, make sure it is wonderful.

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Categories: Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management