Contributor: Josette Snyder, RN, MSN, AOCN
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Learning that you have cancer can make you feel terribly isolated. Suddenly you find yourself in a new, unfamiliar world. But you are not alone.
Take a few minutes to think about the many people who surround you and want to help support you through your treatment into survivorship. Who is on your team?
Your physicians are the experts who are in charge of your treatment plan. They will discuss the risks and benefits of your treatment plan, answer your questions, and provide information.
Don’t forget that your family physician also is a member of your physician team. Your general practitioner is an important resource for you and your family, by providing an empathetic and credible source of information, support and advice.
Nurses are the ones you can go to with questions about the day-to-day issues and the practical matters of dealing with cancer treatment.
This is someone who can tell you what to expect, how to stay comfortable and how to manage cancer-related pain and other symptoms or treatment side effects. Your nurses also can be an important sounding board for your concerns and fears.
Your nurses are very knowledgeable about the details and nuances of navigating the cancer terrain because they are always talking to patients. With their accumulated wealth of patient information, your nurses are a powerful ally in your cancer experience.
Your social worker
Your oncology social worker is a licensed professional who can address the counseling, support and advocacy needs of patients with cancer and their families.
The counseling your social worker provides can help you or a loved one adjust to the cancer diagnosis, communicate with your children, family or doctors and cope with the changes in self-image and sexuality, among other issues.
Support can include referrals to resources for nutrition, complementary therapies, spiritual guidance and home health care. Your social worker also is your advocate, and can help you navigate the health care system, get prescriptions and access transportation to treatment, among a number of other services.
Your family and friends
Your family and friends represent a wealth of support, in the emotional as well as the practical aspects of your cancer journey.
They are the people you confide in, the people you vent to, the people to whom you can express your fears and frustrations. They can be a source of comfort, joy and reassurance.
In a very practical sense, your friends and family also can be of enormous help with the logistics and the myriad of tasks associated with your cancer treatment. They can drive you to doctor’s appointments, watch your children when you need to rest, make meals that you can freeze for later, or create a Facebook group so you don’t have to constantly tell your story.
You might find it difficult accepting help from others. But by letting your loved ones help you, you can give them an active role in fighting your cancer, rather than leaving them stand on the sidelines. These acts of kindness will strengthen your relationships and bind you closer together. You will always remember how your loved ones helped you in your time of need.
Other cancer survivors
Connecting with other people who have been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be a tremendously helpful and empowering experience.
You might be able to understand your own feelings by learning how others responded to cancer. You also may be better able to cope with special challenges of cancer by learning how others managed similar problems.
How to connect with cancer survivors? One way might be within easy reach: You may have a relative or friend who has been through cancer and has an interest in sharing their experiences with you.
One resource I highly recommend to my patients is the 4th Angel Mentoring Program. 4th Angel offers free, one-on-one, confidential outreach and support via telephone from a specially trained cancer survivor.
The American Cancer Society also has a number of support programs, including online support groups, rides to treatment, patient lodging assistance and cancer education classes, among other offerings.
Cancer treatment guides