As we all know, cancer is a devastating disease. It is not only devastating to the patient… but it devastates everyone who cares about the patient. Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, your life is never the same. Every ache, every pain, every bump and every lump makes you worry that your cancer is back. Regardless of what type of cancer you are diagnosed with, all persons with cancer share the same anxieties and fears. Everyone wants to be seen by the best doctors. Everyone wants to be treated with the best treatment available. Everyone wants to live.
When diagnosed with cancer, it is not uncommon for the first reaction to be one of fear of suffering a slow and lingering death. Then the panic sets in. Waiting to get an appointment with the oncologist or surgeon. Waiting to have tests scheduled. Waiting to get the test results. Waiting to see yet another specialist. Waiting for the results of further testing. The waiting causes tremendous anxiety and panic as the uncertainty of your future lies in the hands of total strangers. You wait and you panic and you feel like each day you are not being treated, you are that much closer to dying.
Be assured that a few weeks worth of waiting will not effect your overall treatment outcome. It is more important to find the right doctor for your type of cancer. A doctor whom you trust and feel comfortable with. You will have no choice but to put your fate into the hands of that cancer specialist (oncologist). S/he will determine the best form of treatment for your cancer which will either include surgery, chemotherapy (drug therapy) or radiation therapy. You may be treated with one or all three of these treatment modalities.
While you must have faith in your doctors, you can also make sure that you are informed about the type of cancer you have. Bring a notebook and pen with you. Ask lots of questions. Ask for clarification when you don’t understand the answers. Ask how to spell the terminology your doctors use. Write down your questions before you visit the doctor so you don’t forget to ask them. Write down the answers if you feel you need to. Bring an advocate with you to every appointment. When you are stressed out it is oftentimes hard to concentrate or recall conversations. You may also not ask the important questions. Your advocate will help remind you of the discussion and ask the questions that need to be asked. It is helpful to have the same advocate with you for each doctor visit so they will be familiar with your illness and the prescribed treatment. Become internet savvy and research the community blogs that are out there for your specific type of cancer. There are folks out there in cyberspace sharing their own stories, their triumphs, their losses and information and treatments that have helped them which you can share with your own doctors. Be aware that some patients find that too much information from too many sources actually increases their anxiety. If you are one of those people, that’s fine. Avoid the overload of too much information.
Seek out a 2nd opinion if you feel compelled to do so. Patients do this all the time and it will not jeopardize your relationship with the primary doctor. Most insurance companies will gladly pay for a 2nd opinion. You will feel more in control of the situation if you get the 2nd opinion and it will also give you a sense of security assuming that both doctors agree on the diagnosis and treatment modality. You can become confused if you get two different opinions from 2 (or more) different doctors. At that point you may want to do some research on your own to determine the best course of action to take. While you maybe compelled to criss-cross the globe going from doctor to doctor for a cure, this is not to your advantage. It will be too exhausting, too expensive and too emotionally draining. At some point, you will have to put your trust in one doctor.
Be sure to let loved ones and friends support you in this journey. They can help you physically, emotionally and spiritually. Do not shut them out. You will need them now more than ever. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Tell people what you need and how they can help you. You can not do this on your own.
There are many places where cancer patients can go for information, resources and assistance. Some of these include:
- The American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345. www.cancer.org
- Cancer Care @ 1-800 -813-HOPE (4673). www.cancercare.org
- Cancer Spiritual Support. www.mystronghold.org
- Cancer Information Service @ 1-800-4-CANCER (226237)
- Advanced Cancer Treatment @ 1-888-447-7357. www.issels.com
- CaringBridge at www.CaringBridge.org
- St Jude’s Hospital for childhood cancers. www.stjude.org
Good luck to you!