Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, causing 10 million fatalities each year. Getting a cancer diagnosis impacts many aspects of your life, causing you to experience an abundance of changes in your physical and mental health, career, and personal life. Throughout your cancer journey, you may feel a vast range of emotions you’re not used to dealing with. These feelings may change day by day or minute to minute. Whether you’re recently diagnosed or are currently undergoing treatment, having an array of emotions is normal. Take time to reflect on how you feel about your diagnosis and seek support from others, either from the ones you love or from a support group. Whether you’re anxious, resentful, or somewhere in between, know there are ways for you to cope.
Lean on Friends and Family for Support
Asking for help and relying on others isn’t always easy. Some may find it hard to know exactly what they need, while others view asking for support as a sign of weakness. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s likely your friends and family want to help you in any way they can. Learn to accept help, as it will make all the difference in your journey. Accepting help not only benefits you, but gives your loved ones a sense of contribution during these difficult times.
Friends and family can help you with daily tasks, like running errands and cooking meals. On top of prioritizing your wellbeing, encourage your family members to care for themselves and ask for assistance when they need it too. Cancer affects the entire family and caregiver burnout can be avoided by accepting a helpful hand from neighbors or coworkers. In addition to seeking help from friends and family, cancer support groups are available for you to work through your feelings and cope with the side effects of treatment.
Expect Physical Change
With a cancer diagnosis comes physical changes, including hair loss, scars from surgery, weight gain/loss, and loss of muscle mass. To better prepare yourself before starting treatment, ask your doctor what changes you should expect. If the drugs will cause hair loss, think of what options are available to make you feel confident in your body. Your options can include clothing, makeup, and wigs. Wigs, prostheses, and other adaptive devices are often covered by insurance, just be sure to check with your provider before making a purchase.
Body image problems are a great concern for cancer patients. People can develop a distorted image of themselves if they don’t cope properly with the changes their bodies will go through. Experiencing such change to your body so quickly can be damaging to one’s self-esteem and mental health. Over time you’ll learn to cope and accept these changes into your life.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
After people are diagnosed with cancer, they begin to think of ways they can improve their health. Not only do lifestyle changes help improve your physical health, but your mental health as well. Start by minimizing the amount of stress you have in your life. Relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga help clear your mind and reduce stress levels. This can be an easy daily task to complete by utilizing some online meditation resources. Something as simple as taking 10 minutes out of your day to reflect on the good in your life can help boost your mood. Push yourself to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Getting the right amount of sleep has great health benefits including helping your ability to cope, your mood, memory, and more. For a better night’s rest, avoid screen time and stimulants like sugar and caffeine before bed.
A healthy diet can help you manage your treatment side effects and may lower your future risk of cancer. Your treatment may increase your need for calories and protein while chemotherapy and radiation may decrease your appetite due to nausea. Do your best to experiment with foods you find appetizing so you can keep up your nutrition and promote healing. Drinking water and staying hydrated can help during treatment because certain therapies can cause dehydration and fatigue. Signs of dehydration include thirst, dark urine, dry skin, and dry mouth. If water doesn’t appeal to you, try drinking flavored fluids with electrolytes like Pedialyte or Liquid IV.
Consider Your Finances
Along with a cancer diagnosis come many financial burdens. More than half of U.S. cancer survivors have high medical expenses, worry about paying medical bills, or have delayed care due to costs. Managing your finances earlier in your cancer diagnosis can help you plan for bigger financial decisions in the future. Studies show American cancer patients spend more than $21 billion on their care. Financial problems can impact your mental health, leaving you feeling depressed or anxious. Take into consideration the additional costs you may not think about when budgeting, such as traveling costs for treatment and hospital parking fees. To help reduce your financial stress, consider cutting costs in other parts of your life. Look for sales going on at your local grocery store and use coupons. Many billing companies like insurance or internet providers offer discounts for customers who sign a long-term contract or utilize autopay services.
If you’re a homeowner, look into how to refinance a mortgage. By taking advantage of a lower interest rate and utilizing the cash-out refinance option, you’ll be able to put the money you earn toward bills. If you’re not interested in refinancing, a home equity loan or home equity line of credit are also viable options. If you’re not a homeowner, taking out a personal loan is a great option as it can be used for just about anything. In the long run, this is a more affordable option as opposed to maxing out your credit card to pay bills.
Cancer isn’t an easy battle, but you’re not alone. Together with support from our loved ones and our community, we can raise awareness of this disease. Cancer may affect the way you live your life, but continuing to do the things you loved prior to your diagnosis can help you stay in touch with who you are outside of the hospital.
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