You Have Cancer: Now What?

Rather than surrendering to despair and impersonal medical treatments,growing numbers of cancer patients are empowering themselves with information and control over their therapies. The trend is finding acceptance in
mainstream medicine and helping people with cancer lead healthier lives.

The following resource guides offer tips on developing a strategy for managing the illness, asking the right questions of physicians and getting the right professional and personal support.

Diagnosis
The first things you should do (after taking a deep breath and trying to chill):
• Find the best doctor for your disease: Be willing to travel and always get second, third and even fourth opinions to make sure that you’re getting the best treatment.
• Design a healing plan: Pull together a team of Western physicians as well as integrative doctors (to teach you how to build up your immunity and spiritual grit) to create the best get-healthy recipe.
• Focus on lifestyle changes: The only thing that you can control is what you eat, what you drink and how you move.Try exploring healthy diets, exercise and alternative therapies such as massage, yoga and meditation to boost and maintain your physical and emotional well-being.
• Live! Don’t wait for permission to live. Just because you have cancer does not mean that your life is over.

Information

Studies show that cancer (and other) patients who arm themselves with information typically fare better and experience fewer side effects than those who simply follow doctors’ orders, no questions asked. Being informed gives them some control over their disease—and that feeling of empowerment plays a role in the healing process.

Do not be cowed by your doctor. Ask him or her to explain anything and everything you don’t understand. Prepare questions in advance of appointments (to reduce stress and the odds of forgetting any)—and bring a notebook to jot
down answers and other important info. Below are some questions you should ask

Medical resources

Finding a doctor who specializes in cancer care and choosing a treatment facility are essential steps in any patient’s recovery program. One good place to start is with the cancer centers that the National Cancer Institute recognizes for scientific excellence and the capability to integrate a diversity of research approaches.

Healthy

Patients undergoing treatment can shore up their physical (and emotional) reserves by eating well, exercising and cutting stress (which impairs the immune system).

Your family

Does a cancer diagnosis spell the end of your dreams to have a family? In a word—no. Note to readers: check your options before undertaking treatments that may cause infertility. In the event that you cannot become pregnant, there is always surrogacy and adoption. Despite what you’ve heard, it is possible to
adopt if you’ve had cancer. The key: pick an agency and country that are open to working with cancer survivors.

Some questions you can do when you visit the doctor

• What causes this type of cancer?
• What are the risk factors? If it’s genetic, are other family members at risk?
• What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, rest) do you recommend?
• What are my treatment options?
• Are there activities that should be avoided because they might trigger or exacerbate symptoms?
• What happens if new symptoms crop up or existing ones worsen?
• What medical tests or procedures are necessary? How often?
• What stage is my cancer? What does that mean?
• What is my overall prognosis or chance of recovery?
• What are the average survival and cure rates?
• Could my disease go into remission?
• What is the recommended treatment?
• How often will I have to undergo treatment—and for how long?
• What are the potential side effects?
• What are the benefits versus the risks of each treatment option?
• Are there alternative therapies? What are they?
• What are the expected results of treatment?
• Is the treatment painful? If so, is there a way to make it more bearable?
• How long is the recovery? Will it require a hospital stay?
• When can I resume my normal activity (if it’s been curtailed)?
• Has my cancer spread? If so, how does this change treatment decisions?
• Am I eligible for any clinical trials?
• What happens if my disease progresses while I’m in a clinical trial?
• Who foots the bills if I participate in a clinical trial?
• Where can I find emotional, psychological and spiritual support?
• Whom should I call with questions or concerns after office hours?

•May I contact you or a nurse if I have questions or more symptoms? (If the answer is “no,” find another doctor.)