Living With Cancer

Coping With Cancer Overview

Coping with the Diagnosis of Cancer
Learn as much as possible about your disease. Arm yourself with information in order to lessen frustration. Don't hesitate to ask questions about your disease. Consider keeping a notebook with all of the medical records and information about your diagnosis.
Coping with Terminal Cancer
Sometimes, cancer cannot be cured. When that is the case, patients and families are faced with complex emotions and a variety of end of life issues.
Cancer Survivor Tips
Learning how to take care of your physical and mental health after a cancer diagnosis is the key to living your life to the fullest.
When a Spouse Has Cancer: What to Do and How to Cope
Being a caregiver for a spouse who has cancer may be the toughest job you’ll ever have. It may also be the most vital and the most rewarding. As the spouse, you become part of the cancer treatment team.
Does Ageism Exist in Cancer Care?
Older adults are less likely to be screened for cancer in the first place. And if they are diagnosed with cancer, it's less likely that their doctors will recommend treatment to cure the cancer.
Palliative Care: Bringing Comfort
Palliative care focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life by improving the symptoms of his or her illness, such as pain, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping. It's used with a variety of ailments, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.
Palliative Care Methods for Controlling Pain
The biggest problem with palliative care is that many people are referred for care too late. By starting this type of care early, and by using the right type of pain management, nearly all pain problems can be relieved or reduced.
Patient-Controlled Analgesia Pumps
Patient-controlled analgesia is a method of pain management that allows you to decide when you will get a dose of pain medication. You don’t need to wait for a nurse, and you can get smaller doses of pain medicine more frequently.
Take a ‘Vacation’ from Cancer
Many people with cancer benefit from taking a respite from their condition from time to time. This “vacation” from cancer can come in many forms.
Living with an Ostomy
When your body is unable to remove waste effectively, whether because of a disease or a medical procedure, you may need an ostomy. An ostomy is an opening that is created surgically somewhere on the body to help in the discharge of stool or urine.

Managing Emotions and Stress

The Experience of Grief
Grieving is a normal response to a loss. The loss can include the loss of your normal daily routine, the impact of the diagnosis on other family members, and the financial impact of the diagnosis.

Support for Mind and Body

Anxiety: Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Guided Imagery
These skills take practice, and the more you practice them, the more helpful they are. Some people find it useful to make a tape to listen to as they practice. A soothing tape of music may help.
Art Therapy, Dance Therapy, Music Therapy, and Imagery
Art, dance, music—all are examples of mind-body therapy. Although these therapies do not cure cancer, they provide an outlet for emotions and can improve mental and physical well-being.
Distraction as Alternative Therapy for Cancer
Distraction does not cure cancer, but it helps push patients’ minds away from unpleasant thoughts, procedures, and pain.
Yoga as Alternative Therapy for Cancer
Yoga means "union"—a union of the mind, body, and spirit—and uses slow movement, precise posture, meditation, and breathing exercises to reach a state of relaxation.
Physical Exercise for Cancer
Exercise is an effective activity for many people with cancer. Scientists are still learning about how physical activity helps cancer patients and what impact it has on the immune system.
Maintaining Quality of Life When You Have Cancer
To help you make the transition back to your pre-cancer lifestyle, ask your doctor and other specialists to design a rehabilitation program for you. Its goal should be to strengthen you both physically and mentally.
Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?
A growing number of scientific studies indicate that optimistic people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health than pessimistic people.

Medications

Taking Antidepressant Medications
If you have been asked to take drugs for your feelings of depression. To take antidepressant drugs safely, you will need this safety information.

Family Support

Parental Cancer: Questions and Answers About Changes in Family Rhythms and Routines
Talking with your family about cancer and the emotions that arise is not a one-time discussion, but rather a series of talks that will continue through your treatment.
For Kids: When Someone You Love Has Cancer
If someone you love has cancer, you probably feel sad, angry, and confused. It's OK to feel this way. Cancer is a serious disease. Your loved one is sick. He or she will need to see the doctor a lot. It can help to learn more about cancer.
For Teens: What to Expect If Your Loved One Has Cancer
If you are curious about your loved one's treatment, you may want to ask if you can go with them to a clinic visit or any of the other appointments they may have. Your loved one may not want you to come, or he or she may be happy that you're interested.
When a Spouse Has Cancer: What to Do and How to Cope
Being a caregiver for a spouse who has cancer may be the toughest job you’ll ever have. It may also be the most vital and the most rewarding. As the spouse, you become part of the cancer treatment team.

Records and Documents

Symptom Record Log
Use this chart daily to record the symptoms that you are experiencing. Rate the symptoms according to severity, using a scale of 1 to 4.
Living Wills Offer Peace of Mind
A living will tells others how you want to be treated when it comes to life-sustaining measures.
Patient Rights
If you are unhappy with the home health or hospice care you are receiving, you should notify the provider's administrator, your state health department, and the Better Business Bureau.

Sexual Concerns

Sexuality Issues for Women Being Treated for Cancer
Treatment for cancer can cause many changes that may affect your sexuality. It can also change the physical or emotional closeness you share with another person. Different treatments can cause different physical and psychological changes that can affect how you feel, look, and function. These changes may be temporary, or they may last a long time.
Sex and Cancer: Questions for Your Doctor
Questions to ask: How long will these changes last? What can I do about them? Is it OK to have sex during treatment?
Sexual Relationships and Testicular Cancer
Whether the changes you experience are short-term or long lasting, you can find ways to feel good about yourself and to be intimate with your partner. Remember to be patient and give yourself time. Be creative.
For Family Members Coping with Prostate Cancer
What can you do to help the man in your life with prostate cancer? Keep the lines of communication open.
Dealing with Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is when a man is not able to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for his sexual needs. It's often a side effect of the treatments for prostate cancer. Some men have chronic, complete erectile dysfunction, called impotence. Others have partial or brief erections.
Getting Help for Impotence
Nearly all American men experience occasional impotence, and an estimated 30 million suffer from chronic impotence. But despite its prevalence, the condition is treatable in most cases.
Impotence/Erectile Dysfunction
For most men, erectile dysfunction is caused by physical problems, usually related to the blood supply of the penis. Many advances have occurred in both diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Spiritual Needs

Lifestyle Choices for Cancer Survivors
Life as a cancer survivor can be as rich and rewarding as you decide to make it. In fact, increased awareness of mortality is all some people need to feel more alive than ever.
Coping with Cancer Through Mind, Body, Spirit, and Emotions
You can find many ways to cope with stress. The goal of each approach, whether it be coping skills or relaxation techniques, is to bring you from a place of tension to a place of serenity - mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?
A growing number of scientific studies indicate that optimistic people tend to live longer and have better physical and mental health than pessimistic people.
Palliative Care: Bringing Comfort
Palliative care focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life by improving the symptoms of his or her illness, such as pain, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping. It's used with a variety of ailments, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney failure, or congestive heart failure.
Cancer and Spirituality
People with cancer often tap into their spiritual side when battling the illness. This might include prayer, attending religious services, reading passages from a holy book, or simply expressing gratitude and love.

Work and Finances

First My Illness...Now Job Discrimination
The two major laws that exist to ensure that anyone with a disability or anyone dealing with a health crisis is not discriminated against are the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Insurance Rights of Cancer Survivors
You have rights under federal and state laws to help you buy and keep coverage. But these rights are not comprehensive, and they may vary depending on where you live, what kind of coverage you have or seek, and other factors.
Sample Appeal Letter for Services Denied as 'Not a Covered Benefit'
You can use this letter as a model for an efficient, effective appeal letter. You may also need to enlist the help of a legal professional. Make sure your doctor knows any issues you have with insurance, as he or she may be able to help you.
Understanding the Provisions of Your Managed Care Plan
Managed care, by definition, is a comprehensive method of managing and coordinating medical care you receive. The goal of case management is to coordinate and facilitate access to medical care, while adhering to the guidelines and provisions of your health benefit plan.
Your Employment Rights as a Cancer Survivor
Although most employers treat cancer survivors fairly and legally, some employers—either through outdated personnel policies or an uninformed or misguided supervisor—erect unnecessary and sometimes illegal barriers to survivors' job opportunities.
Work and Cancer: How to Cope
Cancer survivors know how important a job can be to their psychological and financial well being. Here are tips to improve the ability to continue working, as well as some ways to handle workplace discrimination during treatment.
Paying for Home Health and Hospice Care
Home health care services may be paid for directly by the patient, through insurance coverage, or through other public or private sources. Most hospice care programs are provided to the patient regardless of the patient's ability to pay.

Care for Caregiver

Showing You Care

Being a Caregiver
"Formal" caregivers are paid for their services and have had training and education in providing care. "Informal" caregivers, also called family caregivers, are people who provide care to family or friends, usually without payment.
Caring for an Ill Loved One
Caring for anyone is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. Here are tips to help make the task easier.
Making the Home Environment Safe
Here are some suggestions: Make sure lighting in hallways and on stairs is adequate. Secure area rugs to prevent falls and slips. Outdoors, make certain railings, gates, and fences are secure and in good repair.
Assistive Equipment for the Home
Assistive equipment includes shower seats and bathtub mats; walkers, canes, and wheelchairs; and telephones for the hearing-impaired.
Easy Ways to Show Someone You Care
Whether you are a spouse, child, sibling, parent, or friend of a cancer patient, it is important that you never stop expressing your love. Showing how much you care is not only important on holidays and special occasions; it should be done every day of the year.
When a Spouse Has Cancer: What to Do and How to Cope
Being a caregiver for a spouse who has cancer may be the toughest job you’ll ever have. It may also be the most vital and the most rewarding. As the spouse, you become part of the cancer treatment team.

Support for the Caregiver

Caring for the Caregiver
Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be adult children, spouses, siblings, friends or neighbors, who help with daily activities such as bathing, feeding and clothing.
Caregivers Need to Care for Themselves
More than 22 million Americans are involved in some form of helping elderly family members or friends with their daily routines. If you're part of this group, whether you call yourself a caregiver, or simply a good daughter or son, you know that caring for an aging parent or friend has its rewards and its trials.
In Support Groups, You Get (and Give) Help
In a mutual support group, people just like you face similar ordeals and challenges.
Providing Support for the Bereaved
Be available. Sometimes, people who are grieving do not want to talk or listen, nor do they want you to talk or listen. They simply want you to be there for them.
Helpful Hints for Coping with the Holidays
Be kind to yourself. Be among people with whom you feel free to be yourself. Set some time apart for quiet remembrance.

End of Life Care

Care Options for End of Life

Coping with Terminal Cancer
Sometimes, cancer cannot be cured. When that is the case, patients and families are faced with complex emotions and a variety of end of life issues.
Supportive (Palliative) Care for People with Cancer
Palliative care can be provided in the hospital, at home, or in a setting specializing in such care. The duration may be long-term over several years, or short-term, lasting days or weeks. Palliative care may include chemotherapy or radiation for pain control.
Hospice Care Overview
Hospice care usually involves relieving symptoms and providing psychological and social support for the patient and family. The goal of hospice care is to provide the terminally ill patient peace, comfort, and dignity.
Does Ageism Exist in Cancer Care?
Older adults are less likely to be screened for cancer in the first place. And if they are diagnosed with cancer, it's less likely that their doctors will recommend treatment to cure the cancer.

About Hospice

Hospice Care Overview
Hospice care usually involves relieving symptoms and providing psychological and social support for the patient and family. The goal of hospice care is to provide the terminally ill patient peace, comfort, and dignity.
Hospice Care Statistics
Less than half of hospice recipients are cancer patients. The five leading non-cancer conditions admitted to hospice are end-stage heart disease, dementia, feebleness, lung disease, and end-stage renal disease.
Types of Hospice Care Services
The goal of hospice is to provide comfort and care, not "cure" the illness or disease. Types of hospice care services provided depend on the patient's needs and preferences.
Hospice or Palliative Care: Management
Hospice is made up of a team of caregivers who specialize in end-of-life care. This team usually includes doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, home health aides, or trained volunteers. Usually a family member or close friend is chosen as the main caregiver. The main caregiver helps the patient make important decisions.
Hospices Offer Comfort at Life's End
As medical progress prolongs our lives, the end can linger. So, more and more people are turning to hospice care.
Hospice and Palliative Care: Planning
When people begin to think about their own or their loved one's death, many spiritual and ethical issues arise. This is can be a hard topic for the family and caregivers to talk about. They should listen to the patient and help him or her sort through these issues.
Hospice and Palliative Care: Signs and Symptoms of Approaching Death
Although we can never predict exactly when a terminally ill person will die, we know when the time is getting close by a combination of signs and symptoms. Not all of these signs will appear at the same time, and some may never appear at all.

Using Hospice Care

Planning for End of Life
You need to understand your options and take time to consider what will help you reach the end of your life with dignity, comfort and a sense of control.
Types of Home Health and Hospice Care Providers
Home health and hospice care can be provided by many different types of organizations, agencies, companies, and individuals. Choosing the service that is right for your family requires some research.
Choosing a Provider
When looking for a home health and hospice care provider, consider quality of care, availability of services, personnel training and expertise, and payer coverage.
Important Decisions to Be Made in the Dying Process
Many families want their loved ones to die at home in their natural and most comfortable setting. Others do not feel they can emotionally handle the death in their home. Include all family members in this important decision.
Compassionate Drug Use
Compassionate drug use describes the use of investigational drugs by seriously ill people not enrolled in clinical trials.
Paying for Home Health and Hospice Care
Home health care services may be paid for directly by the patient, through insurance coverage, or through other public or private sources. Most hospice care programs are provided to the patient regardless of the patient's ability to pay.
Patient Rights
If you are unhappy with the home health or hospice care you are receiving, you should notify the provider's administrator, your state health department, and the Better Business Bureau.

Grief and Loss

The Experience of Grief
Grieving is a normal response to a loss. The loss can include the loss of your normal daily routine, the impact of the diagnosis on other family members, and the financial impact of the diagnosis.
Grief and Loss
Grief moves in and out of stages from disbelief and denial, to anger and guilt, to finding a source of comfort, to eventually adjusting to the loss.
Helpful Hints for Coping with the Holidays
Be kind to yourself. Be among people with whom you feel free to be yourself. Set some time apart for quiet remembrance.
Helping Your Children Cope With Death
Children deal with death in many different ways, and not necessarily in the same manner as adults.
Life After Loss: Walking the Path to Wholeness
Whatever the nature of your loss, active grieving can help you get through the following months and years.
Providing Support for the Bereaved
Be available. Sometimes, people who are grieving do not want to talk or listen, nor do they want you to talk or listen. They simply want you to be there for them.