After a cancer diagnosis, life comes to a standstill. Plans are placed on hold and you may feel overwhelmed by the news and decisions and treatments to come.
Gathering information about your treatment, accepting help from loved ones and doing practical things to prepare for your cancer care journey can help you gain a sense of control.
Amber Mews and Mindy Gribble, both Marshfield Clinic registered nurses who help patients with cancer from diagnosis through survivorship, suggest taking these steps to manage life after a cancer diagnosis.
1. Find a support person.
A new cancer diagnosis often means information overload. A support person who comes to appointments with you can take notes, help you remember questions to ask your health care team and provide emotional support.
Patient navigators and the WINGS program for cancer survivors provide resources and guidance for patients throughout their cancer care experience.
2. Learn about your diagnosis.
Seek information about your disease and treatment options from reliable sources including:
- Your health care providers
- Books and DVDs your health care team recommends
- American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute websites
Look for survivor stories and coping resources that walk you through the stages of your cancer care experience, Mews said.
3. Get organized.
Set up a system to keep track of information about your diagnosis, treatment and appointments. Binders and planners work well for a lot of patients.
“If organization isn’t your thing, ask a loved one to help,” Gribble said.
Keep a list of phone numbers for your health care providers, insurance company and loved ones.
4. Understand your health insurance.
A Marshfield Clinic Patient Financial Services representative can explain health insurance coverage, insurance changes and financial assistance options.
5. Complete HIPAA release forms.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that keeps your health information private. It also can prevent loved ones from getting information when you really want them to be informed.
Complete a HIPAA release form if you want to let health care providers and insurance carriers release information to your loved ones.
6. Execute an advance directive.
An advance directive ensures you’ll receive the kind of health care you want if you can’t communicate your decisions. It is a written document that spells out your preferences for certain life-sustaining treatments and appoints a person to make your health care decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
7. Arrange lodging and transportation.
Many cancer centers can help with lodging when needed. At Marshfield Medical Center in Marshfield, Cattails Cottage is a place where patients older than 18 and their caregivers can find supportive accommodations when traveling for cancer care. A Hope Lodge provides a place to stay at no cost for patients undergoing cancer treatment in cities where facilities are available. The American Cancer Society can help you find lodging through its Hotel Partners Program or connect you with a volunteer driver.
8. Talk to your employer.
Meet with your manager or a human resources representative to discuss time off for appointments, extended leaves of absence and modifications to your workspace if you need them.
9. Meet with a dietitian.
Good nutrition during cancer treatment will help you feel better and stay stronger. Talk to a registered dietitian about a healthy diet and any special concerns you have like nausea, loss of appetite or tube feeding supplies if you need them.
10. Find a support group.
“Some people want support immediately and others prefer to be much more private about what’s going on,” Mews said.
If an in-person support group isn’t right for you, visit www.cancercare.org for a list of online and telephone support groups.