ADVICE FOR THE RECENTLY DIAGNOSED CANCER PATIENT FROM SOMEONE WHO BEAT IT
12 Tips that Just Might Help Save a Life
Everyone once in a while someone emails me about a friend or acquaintance who has been diagnosed with cancer. As a Young Adult cancer survivor and Founder of Prepare to Live they’re looking for suggestions and hope from someone who has “been there.”
I’m generally out of the loop these days, thankfully. After over 11 years cancer free and coming up on two years without any cancer related drugs, my attention is elsewhere, but I got asked recently and I thought I would share my quick notes/ideas/opinions in the off chance that someone you know may be coping with cancer. Sadly, odds are that you do. Or will.
Be your own best expert. Every doctor has their own, sometimes hidden agenda, talk to lots of them and remember they work for you. You’re hiring them to save your life. So interview them well — have questions, do background checks, see if they’re involved with leading trials etc.
Use the web, but don’t believe everything you read. There is as much bullshit online as there is truth, and when you’re sick, looking for answers, you’re vulnerable. Get lots of info, then take that info to real live human experts who can help you separate fact from fiction.
Ignore Statistics. Be your own statistic.
Remember: Things Change. FAST. If you think your computer or mobile phone becomes obsolete quickly, wait til you get stuck into the world of medical technology. New things are being developed non-stop. Find out about them, research them. Be a medical tech nerd.
Make Changes. If you never exercised, start. If you ate crap, stop. If you worked all the time, learn to meditate. Tell your body you love it and are grateful to it — listen to what it wants and as best as possible, give it.
And obviously quit smoking, red meat, booze etc, but if you love those things and they make you happy, don’t make yourself miserable. Have some. Once in a while as a treat. Except for the cigarettes.
Rally the Troops. Build a support network, and give them jobs. Your friends and family will want to help, but most likely, they won’t know how. So they will hover and dawdle and give you sad looks. This is because, ironically, they feel helpless, after all, they can’t fix your “problem.” But they can do other things — get groceries, wash your dog, manage your emails, massage your neck, vacuum. Trust me, they will jump at the chance to feel like they’re helping. And to have something to do besides give you sad looks.
Start a Blog (don’t start a non-profit*). Everyone is going to want to know how you’re doing and you’re going to get sick of telling them. Blogs didn’t exist when I was first diagnosed, so I did email blasts, but now a private blog is a great way to share your progress with everyone without having to tell the same story over and over and over.
Get your Head Right. A large part of your recovery (and in my opinion, the cause of many diseases) is emotional. So get right in the head. However you have to. Get spiritual, get a psychiatrist, get a new job, make friends with a Monk, let go of any guilt, make amends if you must, but clear your conscience. Get your Karma bank back in black.
Get on the ACOR email list for your specific disease. Google it.
Get Outside. If you’re stuck in bed, or in a hospital, and you can, get out and breathe the fresh air — even if only for 5 minutes. Especially if you’re in a hospital. They smell funny. That said, more important than breathing fresh air, is learning to breathe. Meditation can help.
Get an Insurance Helper. Leukaemia may have come close to killing me, but dealing with insurance companies came closer. The stress, anxiety, bureaucracy and utter nonsense and incompetence I dealt with during my treatment may have had more to do with my hair loss than bad genes or chemo. That thing I said above about rallying the troops and giving people jobs? This may be the most important one. Let someone else deal with it. Trust me.
And finally, check out the fantastic organisation that Prepare to Live now refers Young Adults to: StupidCancer.com
Wishing you all health and happiness,
*Note: Prepare to Live is looking for new leadership. If you, or someone you know is interested in taking the reins, please get in touch.