Tips for Empowering Yourself in Daily Life
- Remember your individuality. Don’t dwell on statistics. Cancer affects each person differently. Cancer can affect even people who have the same cancer type differently. Your personal values and goals will also influence which treatments will be best for you.
- Educate yourself. You are in charge of your health. Learn as much as you can to feel comfortable about your diagnosis and treatment plan. The more you know, the more confident you may feel about your choices.
- Focus on healing. Sometimes people living with cancer feel like a victim. Try to let go of these feelings so you can begin to move on. Focus all of your anger, disappointment and frustration into fighting cancer, and enjoying life.
- Be proactive. Your doctor can tell you what changes you should anticipate during treatment. If hair loss is a possible side effect, find an image specialist to help you feel more comfortable with your appearance. Prepare yourself now so you will be able to cope better later.
- Establish a support system. Staying connected with others can be empowering in itself. A network of friends, family, community members and other people living with cancer can be an essential source of support and encouragement at this time.
- Communicate your feelings. Share your thoughts and feelings with friends, family and your care providers. You may feel frustrated if others withhold information from you, or if people expect you to be positive all the time. By expressing your feelings, you can all gain strength from each other.
- Anticipate reactions from others. Some people around you may withdraw or distance themselves from you for fear of saying the wrong thing. Others may have questions and concerns. Determine how you will deal with these situations so you are comfortable with the outcome.
- Try to maintain your normal lifestyle. Staying involved in work and leisure activities may help you feel more in control and less off-balance. You will still need to be open to adjusting your daily routine as necessary, but try to maintain your normal lifestyle as much as possible.
- Accept help. Enlisting the help of others may help take some of the burden off of you. It is also a way to maintain social ties and reduce a sense of isolation. Let friends and family help with errands, household chores, accompanying you to appointments, etc.
- Take care of yourself. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest and exercising, when recommended by your doctor, can be empowering. Caring for your overall health may give you more energy and help reduce the stress of cancer and its treatment.
- Develop your own coping strategies. What comforted you through difficult times before cancer may help ease your worries now. Talking to a close friend, counselor, or religious leader may help. You could also try new coping strategies (e.g., relaxation techniques, keeping a journal, participating in a new activity or hobby).
- Join the fight against cancer. Many cancer survivors feel more empowered when they get involved in the fight against cancer (e.g., become a Cancer Fighter). You may decide to volunteer for fundraising events with your local cancer society, participate in cancer walks, and/or become a cancer advocate by supporting a cause, idea, or policy.
Tips for Empowering Yourself During Cancer Treatment
- Find experts in cancer. You should be comfortable with, and confident in, your care. Choose a provider/hospital/cancer facility that suits you best. Some hospitals treat cancer exclusively. This might be something you prefer. If you are seeing several different providers, make sure your care is coordinated properly.
- Understand your rights. You are entitled to certain rights from your hospital and doctors. This includes the right to make decisions about your treatment, obtain relevant, current, and understandable information, and receive care that is respectful and considerate.
- Research your treatment options. Learn about the cancer type you have, its stage, and your treatment options. Ask your doctor about patient education materials and resources. Compare the benefits and risks of the different cancer treatments to decide which treatments are best for you.
- Explore complementary therapies. Ask about and take advantage of other services to supplement your cancer treatment, such as nutrition therapy, rehabilitation, counseling and spiritual support. Make sure your doctor is monitoring any complementary therapies you are using.
- Expect the best. Make sure you get answers to your questions and the attention you deserve. Your care providers should communicate regularly with each other, and you, about your treatment plan. It also helps to find a cancer facility where all of your care is handled in one place.
- It is okay to get a second opinion. Don't be afraid of offending your doctor if you would like to get a second opinion. Most doctors understand the need for a second opinion when facing a major decision. Your doctor might even recommend it to help you explore your options.
- Prepare ahead. Your doctor can give you an idea about what to expect from cancer treatment, including possible side effects and how to manage them. Think about how the treatment will affect your everyday life, including work and family.
- Set reasonable goals. Set regular goals for yourself, no matter how small. For instance, your goal one day could be to walk five more minutes than the day before. Don’t try to push yourself too hard though. Listen to your body for cues about how much you can handle.
- Become involved in your treatment plan. Being involved in your treatment plan may give you a greater sense of control and help you feel more confident as you begin treatment. It is up to you to decide how involved you would like to be in decision-making and what you want out of treatment.
- Maintain open communication with your doctor. Communication with your doctor is essential. You want to make sure you are getting the information and advice you need to make informed decisions. You also want to keep your doctor informed about how you are feeling and any new symptoms you may be experiencing.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTH PROVIDER PRIOR TO MAKING DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR TREATMENT.
Communicating With Your Doctor
You may feel awkward or hesitate to ask questions or express your concerns to your doctor. You may also find it difficult to comprehend the information you receive from your doctor and other sources. It is important to communicate with your doctor so you can feel good about your treatment and empowered during your care.
The following are suggestions for communicating with your doctor:
- Decide how much information you want to know, and make your doctor aware of it. Many people who are fully informed about their disease and treatment options tend to feel more empowered. However, you may feel overwhelmed by too much information and details, and would rather leave most decisions to your doctor or a family member.
- Keep a record of your medical history, medications and daily routine. Write down your symptoms and any issues you want to discuss with your doctor (e.g., difficulty sleeping, nausea, headaches, depression, etc.). The more your doctor knows about your situation, the better he/she can help you.
- Ask questions. It helps to make a list of your questions ahead of time. Don't be afraid to speak up if you are having difficulty understanding an explanation, description, or unfamiliar medical terms. Each person's needs are unique, and your questions may change at different points throughout your care.
- Take notes, or ask your doctor if you can tape record the discussion for later review. You can also bring someone with you to the appointment, such as a family member or friend, who can offer feedback.
- Ask your doctor what you can expect from treatment (e.g., possible side effects), how often you will have to undergo treatment, as well as the risks and benefits of the treatment. Find out what signs to look out for that your doctor should know about, and what will be involved in recovery.
- Make sure you understand the next step of your care before leaving the doctor's office. Ask if there is written information or educational materials (e.g., books, pamphlets, videos, etc.) that you can take home with you. Ask for referrals to psychological, financial, and/or spiritual support resources. Find out when is the best time to call if you have questions.
Patient Empowerment at CTCA
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), our Patient Empowerment MedicineSM (PEM) model puts at the center of your care so you can feel more in control of your life and your health.
Once you become a patient at CTCA, we empower you with a team of cancer experts, including experienced and compassionate doctors and practitioners, who make every effort to work with your schedule, not the other way around. Your care team spends time getting to know you and helps you decide on a treatment plan that best suits your individual needs.
At CTCA, we offer traditional and innovative cancer treatments and technologies, like surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, along with complementary therapies, like nutrition therapy and oncology rehabilitation. We also understand that your cancer treatment experience is made up of much more than the treatments themselves. The expertise of your care providers, the treatment approach, and the environment in which you receive treatment are important elements as well.
The practice of Patient Empowerment MedicineSM takes all aspects of integrative cancer care into consideration and adds what we believe is the most important dimension—you. While we value your ability to understand and participate in the treatment process, we also understand that your desire to play an active role in the process may change from time to time. We will work with you at whatever level you are comfortable to empower you with information, guidance and support the way you need it.
At CTCA, we recognize that you are more than just a tumor; and, you are more than just a “cancer patient.” You are a unique, whole individual who is fighting cancer. And we believe in fighting with you. Our whole-person approach is what cancer care should be.
I hope this information has helped you in some way. I will check in with you again next month. In the meantime, stay strong and hopeful.