It doesn’t take long on the cancer journey before you realize that your chances of healing and regaining a sense of well being isn’t up to just one doctor. You need a team of experts all pitching in to make sure you get the best care possible.
First of all, of course, you have your surgeon, your radiologist, and your oncologist. You want to make sure these people are top in their field, as they will be advising you on a lot of big decisions, say nothing of performing most of your treatments. Get second, third, and even fourth opinions if you need to. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with each one.
However, cancer isn’t just about killing bad cells. It’s also about trying to stay well during the process. That includes maintaining your weight and nutrition levels, staying emotionally balanced, and dealing with side effects. Getting help with these facets of care is just as important as making sure your surgeon knows what he’s doing.
Here are the other members who should be lining up in your batting box. If you’re missing one or two, it’s never too late to bring them on board.
Nurse: This is the person most likely to be your initial line of support when it comes to things like side effects. Feeling nauseated? Ask him/her about available medications. Have an injection site reaction? Call your nurse before you call your doctor. Nurses are also great for giving our recommendations of cancer support services in your community. Make friends with this person!
Counselor: Many people trust the physical challenges of cancer to a trained physician, but neglect to get help on the emotional side. Make no mistake-cancer challenges you emotionally just as much, if not more so, than physically. Before you blow your cork and take it out on your family and friends, make an appointment with a therapist of some sort; someone you can talk to and trust. This person can not only help you cope with your own fears and frustrations surrounding the disease, but can assist you with concerns on the job (how much should you tell your boss?) and with your children (what if they’re afraid when they see me with no hair?).
Spiritual Advisor: If you’re like many cancer fighters and survivors, you have some sort of faith in your life that provides stability and support. A spiritual advisor-whether your minister, priest, rabbi, spiritual healer, or even the chaplain on staff at the hospital-can help you deal with fear and anxiety about your diagnosis, and can even be of assistance when you find yourself angry at God (or whomever) and needing to vent.
Dietician or Naturopath: Nutrition is critical during cancer treatment, and it’s so easy to deprive our bodies when side effects start taking hold. Metal mouth, mouth sores, lack of appetite, and digestive difficulties make it hard to eat sometimes. Combine that with vomiting and diarrhea and you have a recipe for malnutrition, an extremely dangerous condition during cancer. Use this expert to get advice on things you can eat, even when you’re feeling down, that will help keep your body fighting.
Physical Therapist: You know how it is if you fail to exercise even for a few days-it’s difficult to get back to where you were. If you fail to do any exercise through your entire treatment, your muscles will weaken and atrophy, leaving you less mobile and possibly making recovery more difficult. A physical therapist can steer you toward exercises that work for your current condition, even if you’re fatigued or stiff from surgery.
Accountant or Financial Advisor: Sometimes a social worker can help you in this area as well, but you should have someone on your team who can assist in financial matters. How much will your insurance pay, for instance, and how much will you have to cover? How can you manage your part of the payment? What can you deduct from your taxes? How will this affect your retirement? Financial concerns can cause many cancer patients a lot of stress and anxiety. Having someone in your corner can help you feel more in control.
Who did you have on your cancer treatment team? Who was your most helpful person?
Photo courtesy asonor1 via Flickr.com.