Survivorship: Living With, Through and Beyond Cancer
A new cancer diagnosis can change your life and the lives of those around you. Michelle Hoy, an oncology social worker at Indiana University Health West Hospital, offers tips for survivorship and coping with cancer.
“The shock of a new cancer diagnosis can affect people in many different ways,” Hoy says. “It’s common to initially feel overwhelmed, but patients often start to feel better once they feel more in control of the situation.”
Here’s what she recommends to help patients and loved ones feel in-control:
•Gather information about the diagnosis from your care team and reliable websites.
•Communicate clearly with your medical team. Write questions down in advance of your appointments, bring someone with you and seek a second opinion if necessary.
•Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help and support.
•Be aware of benefits offered through your employer. Talk to your human resources department about disability and leave benefits. Encourage those who will be caring for you to do the same.
•Organize your medical bills. The financial impact of a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming.
•Find an outlet for your stress. Journaling, listening to music, praying, talking with a friend and exercising are all healthy options.
Adjusting to a New Normal
Throughout treatment, Hoy says priorities, family roles and professional roles tend to shift. Patients often have to learn to adjust to their “new normal.” Once treatment ends, some of those roles may readjust again.
“As you adjust to your life during and after cancer, learn to be intentional,” Hoy says. “Make sure you spend time and energy on what you truly value. Make a list of your top priorities. If you find those priorities are not receiving the bulk of your time and energy, make adjustments to bring those into alignment. “
Putting a Support System in Place
Anxiety and depression are not uncommon when dealing with cancer, she adds. That is why a solid support system is critical. But where can you find support? Hoy recommends starting with your medical provider and being open about how you are feeling and coping.
“Be direct and specific about your needs,” she says. This helps your medical provider connect you to individualized resources, such as social workers, nurse navigators and support groups.”
Her last tip for survivorship? Don’t overlook family and friends who offer to help. Whether it’s an offer to cook a meal or run an errand, learn to accept support.