Hearing a doctor say, “you have cancer,” will turn your world upside down. Not only are you one of more than 17 million people who are diagnosed with cancer each year. You might also be thinking of the 9.5 million people worldwide who will pass away from the disease. Plus, you will need to start preparing for cancer treatments. In this article, there are 12 steps to help you prepare to battle cancer.
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What Are the Different Types of Cancer Treatments?
First your doctors will decide what type of cancer you have. Then your doctors (usually more than one) will help you decide on a cancer treatment plan. Fortunately, there have been HUGE advances in the treatment of most types of cancer over the last 50 years. Even in the 15 years since my diagnosis, there have been tons of improvements in cancer treatments.
The three most prominent types of cancer treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Many cancers involve at least 2 of these treatments, and some still might require all three.
Cancer surgery is the physical removal of cancer cells from the body. Surgery is not only used to remove cancer but it can also be used to help diagnose certain types of cancer. Doctors also use surgery to see if cancer has spread to other organs. During my treatment plan, the first step we went with was surgery.
Chemotherapy is another widely used cancer treatment. This involves using drugs inside the body to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered in several different ways. Many chemos are administered orally, through an IV, or through injection. The chemotherapy I used was given with an IV.
Radiation is another common therapy used to treat cancer. Doctors will often use radiation beams to shrink a tumor before surgery. It can also be implanted near the cancer location, or taken orally. The type of cancer I had didn’t respond well to radiation, so I didn’t have that type of treatment.
Some less common cancer treatments are immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and hormonal therapy. There are also research studies and clinical trials that might be available for you. Talk to your doctor and see which treatments will be best suited for your cancer treatment. Now that you know more about the different types of treatments, you are ready to get prepared! Keep reading to learn the 12 steps I used in preparing for cancer treatments.
Prepare Your Mind for Cancer Treatments
To begin preparing for cancer treatments, you have to start by preparing your mind. When going through surgery, chemo, and other cancer treatments, a lot of focus will be placed on your health. Your doctors will be monitoring EVERYTHING, including how much you eat, your blood counts, and any physical symptoms.
Unfortunately, your mental health can often get ignored during cancer treatments. Preparing your mind for what’s to come will help you manage your mental health during these tough times. Having good mental health will help you get through the physical symptoms too.
Take Time to Process Your Cancer Diagnosis
In order to prepare your mind for cancer treatments, you first must allow yourself time to process your diagnosis. There are also many healthy ways to do this. For me, journaling and prayer were the first 2 ways I started preparing for cancer treatments. I prayed by myself, with my family, and also with my close friends. I also started journaling during my cancer diagnosis. Writing down my thoughts helped me process them more clearly. Just be sure you find a way to process that works for you.
Unfortunately, there are also many unhealthy ways to process having cancer. Alcohol and drugs might seem like a good idea at the time. But you’re pushing the pain down inside instead of dealing with it. Ignoring your feelings won’t make them go away either. Give yourself time to think, cry, or get mad! Whichever one helps you process your cancer diagnosis is the right one for you.
Learn About Your Upcoming Treatments
I’m a mom, and a control freak, so walking into cancer treatments without knowing what’s going to happen will send me into pure panic mode! As soon as I found out for sure that I did have cancer, I started researching all things cancer. I found out what type of cancer I actually had, and then learned what were the best treatments to use.
Your doctors should be willing to explain, in detail, what course of treatment they are recommending. They should also tell you why they think it’s the best plan for your situation. If you don’t understand everything they are telling you, ask them to explain it again. Your doctors are highly educated professionals but don’t forget that they work for you.
Also, remember that most doctors will give you all the scenarios and side effects you MIGHT experience with your treatments. They don’t mean to scare you. They want you to know everything that could be a side effect. That way, if you do have some side effects from any of your treatments, you won’t be surprised by them.
Strengthen Your Faith Before Cancer Treatments
The ABSOLUTE best method of preparing for cancer treatments is through faith! For me, hearing that I had cancer was the lowest time in my life. I honestly thought that my life was ending. But when I was down in the darkest pit of my life, after I had cried and mourned and questioned, the only thing I could do was look up. God met me where I was, and pulled me to Him.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” We can’t carry our burdens alone. None of us can. Especially a burden as heavy as cancer.
I can 100% tell you that the only way I made it through cancer treatments was by leaning on God every step of the way! I did this through daily prayer and Bible reading. Another way I drew closer to God was through my Christian friends. God blessed my family with a wonderful church family, and they were with us every step of the journey. I recommend anyone preparing for cancer treatments to strengthen their faith in God.
Prepare Your Body for Cancer Treatments
Now that you’ve prepared your mind, it’s time to prepare your body for cancer treatments. You want to be as healthy as possible going into surgery, chemo, or whatever treatment you’ve decided to use. You’ll want to prepare for physical changes during cancer treatments.
Your team of doctors will be monitoring your physical health closely all throughout your treatments. But there are ways you can prepare your body to fight cancer beforehand. Following doctors’ orders, eating healthy, exercising, and getting rest will all help when preparing your body for cancer treatments.
Eat Healthy to Prepare for Cancer Treatments
Eating healthy is a great way to prepare your body for cancer treatments. Being the healthiest you can be will make your treatments work better. A healthy diet will also improve your recovery after treatments. Most of us could stand to eat a healthier diet already. Facing cancer is another great reason to start taking care of yourself.
Your doctor may give you some advice on foods to eat before and during treatments. Before my surgery, I had to do a “cleanse” for my digestive system. This meant that all I had to eat was chicken broth and something like Gatorade before heading to the hospital Monday morning.
Your doctor may recommend certain foods to help alleviate symptoms from your treatments. A bland diet might be recommended if you’re having nausea. A lot of people lose weight during cancer treatments, so make sure you are following a diet that will help you stay as healthy as possible.
Exercise Before (and During) Treatments
Exercise is another great way to prepare for cancer treatments. It’s normal to be sad and angry after getting a cancer diagnosis. Who wouldn’t be upset?
Moving your body is a simple way to improve your mental and physical health. Movement releases endorphins, which will quickly improve your mood. This shot of endorphins will help you become more confident and ready to fight cancer.
Before my diagnosis, I tried working out regularly, but I was getting nowhere at all. After learning I was severely anemic, having no energy made perfect sense. I was trying to push myself with fumes!
After my surgery, and a few weeks of healing, I was able to add some walking into my daily routine. When I started chemotherapy, I felt good enough to walk for 30+ minutes 3-4 days a week. It wasn’t much, but getting a little bit of exercise each week was great! It helped me feel more like myself during this crazy time in my life.
Get Some Rest to Prepare for Treatments
Getting plenty of rest might be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but it shouldn’t be! Your body restores itself during times of rest. So rest is extremely important when preparing for cancer treatments.
Getting enough rest before treatments will be hard. Maybe you’re trying to get organized before surgery. Or you might have to plan rides for the kids to school on the days you have treatments. Whatever you have going on, rest needs to be a high priority on your list.
So how do you get more rest while preparing for cancer treatments? You can delegate housework or other tasks to your family and friends. Another way is to set an earlier bedtime. You can also get more rest by taking small breaks throughout the day. Whatever works for you, getting rest will be crucial when fighting cancer.
Prepare Your Home Ahead of Time
Whether you have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some other cancer treatment, you’ll probably be spending a lot more time at home. So, you’ll need to make your home as comfortable as you can before treatments. Prepare your family for your upcoming treatments so they can help too.
Get Organized Before Cancer Treatments
When starting cancer treatments, you need to know your world is going to quickly change. Your daily schedule will be different. You might not have time to do some of the tasks you usually do.
In order to navigate these big changes during cancer treatments, you need to get organized ahead of time. Getting organized will help your family and friends know how they can help you. It will also help you feel less stressed. If you’re less stressed, your focus can be on fighting cancer. You won’t have to worry about everything else!
For starters, let’s think about all the chores you normally do around your home. If you’re the main homemaker in your house, you’ll need to teach your family members, and maybe some friends, how to do these tasks. If you’re in charge of paying the bills, you’ll want to set up a payment schedule. You’ll also need a list of websites and login information if you pay your bills electronically.
If you have kids at home, you will need to draw up a schedule for their school pick up and drop off times. You also need to include any extra-curricular activities they have. If you have pets, you’ll want to set up a feeding and care schedule for them, too.
It’s still a good idea to get organized, even if you plan to do as much as possible. You never know when you’ll need some help getting things done!
Help Your Family Understand Your Upcoming Treatments
Before starting cancer treatments, your family will need to understand what’s going to happen. They love you and care about you, so they will appreciate you telling them the truth. Even young kids can understand a general outline of what’s going on with your health. They also need to know how treatments will change their daily schedule.
Your husband or partner should be your closest ally. Letting him know what’s going on, and what to expect, will make him better able to help you throughout treatments.
During my surgery and chemotherapy, I needed all the help I could get, so I had to keep my family in the loop! My husband went with me to most of my appointments. Our family and friends helped get our kids to school, clean the house, and keep our schedules going. By helping them understand what was going on with me, they were less stressed about the changes. They were able to understand and were ready to help when I needed it!
Create A Space for Healing
My final tip for preparing for cancer treatments is to create a relaxing space for healing. You need to find the most relaxing space in your home. Maybe it’s your bedroom. Or it might be a family room with a super comfy couch. Whatever space you choose, you need to make it perfect for your rest and healing.
I spent a lot of time in bed after cancer surgery. So, my bedroom needed to be clean, comfortable, and functional. Each night I was hooked to a feeding tube. There was no bedside lamp, so I would have to turn off the light, navigate around the bed in the dark, and crawl into it before going to sleep. All while dragging an IV pole connected to the feeding tube. It was the worst.
My mother-in-law helped me get in bed after one crazy night, and realized I didn’t have a lamp. So the next day, she brought up a lamp and a new comforter for our bed. Both of these items helped a lot when I needed to get some sleep!
After a few weeks I started spending more time on the couch. My mom and some other family members would come help me clean. Some of them would bring food for the kids and comfy pjs for me. This might not seem like much. But they were a great help when creating a space for me to recover from surgery and treatments.
How Will You Prepare for Cancer Treatments?
Dealing with cancer, and all that comes with it, isn’t easy. These 12 steps helped make my cancer journey manageable. I hope these tips will help you get prepared for cancer treatments.