August 7, 2006
My Advice for People Newly Diagnosed with Cancer
1. It's great to talk with friends who've had cancer. Hearing their experiences and how they coped can be quite helpful. But be wary if they say, "You should do..." Though well-intentioned, they don't know what's best for you. You do.
2. Remember that cancer treatments change rapidly. The treatment that was standard three years ago may not be standard today. What you hear from people treated in the past is usually out of date.
3. Nearly everyone undergoing cancer treatment experiences fatigue. It's probably the most common and least publicized side effect. Preserve your energy for activities that are most important and/or most enjoyable.
4. Don't begin a radical cancer curing diet or major lifestyle change during your treatment. Just eat sensibly and nutritiously, exercise moderately, and get plenty of rest. You can make whatever lifestyle and diet changes you want after treatment is over.
5. Medications that control side effects have improved tremendously, but not every medication works equally well for each person. Don't be stoic. Tell your doctor about your side effects or when you just feel crappy. It's often possible to switch you to different drugs that will work better for you.
6. Share all of your alternative or complementary treatments with your physicians because some treatments (even vitamins) can interfere with chemotherapy, anesthesia, and your body's natural response to surgery.
7. Recovery is not a straight line. You'll feel better one day; then you'll feel worse; then you'll feel better. Don't be discouraged by the down days.
8. The end of treatment is not always a time of celebration. For many people, it's the most difficult time because you want to be normal, but you don't yet feel normal. It may take several months or more to bounce back.
9. Survival statistics can tell you how a large group of people with your diagnosis will do. But you're an individual, and the statistics can't predict how you will do.
10. Don't blame yourself for your cancer. It's usually impossible to say why an individual got cancer. And no one -- no one -- deserves cancer.
Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance
100 West Seneca St.
Ithaca, NY 14850