Helping patients live with and not for their cancer
Dr Prinitha Pillay suggests necessary tools to help reframe the new reality that allows cancer patients to live life, not just survive it.
Life with cancer is a journey with twists, turns and challenges. Everyone walking this path has a unique experience depending on their type of cancer, diagnosis stage, support network, and outlook on life.
When a disease like cancer threatens us, the will to live becomes a driving force within us. Some harness this force more strongly than others, while others find their path isn’t that easy. Some patients are just trying to get through the day while making the best of their new reality. They do, however, choose to live, consciously or subconsciously.
When a person hears they have cancer, their world turns upside down. Worry quickly sets in. Many questions arise, like what treatments are available? How effective are they? When it comes to surgery, what happens? What are the side effects?
Empowered by information
Cancer patients are increasingly empowered by information. They feel more in control over their therapies as a result than just following a doctor’s orders, or giving up to despair. Patients are their own best advocates, and as doctors, we should help amplify their voices.
Below are strategies that will help you live with your disease and get through each day.
• Develop a plan to deal with the illness. Ask physicians questions and get support from a team of people. Evidence suggests outcomes are better with a team. Thus, a multi-disciplinary team is important.
• You shouldn’t be afraid to get other opinions to ensure your treatment is best suited for you. You can have different treating doctors, but you can also find one to help you keep it all together after treatment.
• There is a direct relationship between our mind, body, and well-being. For example, if you have cancer, depression and anxiety are common emotions. These feelings can make it hard to cope with your treatments and get through the day. The trick, though, is not to be afraid to ask for help.
• Maintain your physical and emotional well-being by eating well, exercising, and practising yoga, meditation, painting, journaling, or whatever will help you refocus your mind. Be honest about what you can’t or won’t do as well.
• Find strength in a cancer support group. Their perspectives can be invaluable as they’ve lived it.
• It’s the big picture that keeps us focused on hardships, especially when you reframe your reality. Maintaining a sense of independence, self-esteem and regaining control over your life is essential. Perhaps the best is to be present and not lose time now to the future. Actively attempting to resolve negative emotions and depression by helping others and practising self-care goes a long way.
• Despite how hard you try to be positive, it’s okay to be outright miserable and scared all at the same time. Likewise, it’s acceptable to change your mind and your mood.
• Allow yourself to feel anything and everything. There is no right prescribed way to be a person with cancer. You don’t always have to be positive, but when you do, revel in it.
• Allow yourself to experience life’s little joys. You don’t have to give up on life because you have cancer.
• Adding life to years is as important as adding years to life!
Based on experiences shared by cancer patients, it offers ways to enrich relationships, change the way we view cancer, discover better ways to communicate with loved ones, and empower yourself in the healing process.
How have you changed as a person after being diagnosed? Share your experience with us on treatingcancer.co.za
MEET THE EXPERT – Dr Prinitha Pillay
Dr Prinitha Pillay has worked in the medical field for over 25 years and is a specialist oncologist practicing in Johannesburg. She provides comprehensive cancer care and treatment that includes helping patients navigate from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. Her specialised team offer state of the art treatments for all cancers.
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