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Tips to Cope When Your Cancer has Spread

Source: Buddies for Life

Dr Inge Kriel an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital says that learning that your cancer has spread can be devastating.

She states, “This is an extremely challenging time and you’re likely to feel completely lost and at sea. You may wonder why this has happened to you and what you did wrong. Another worry, may be about how to break the news to your family and how to cope with their reactions. You may be overwhelmed with how to cope with the path ahead. The unknown is frightening and a source of distress.”

Dr Kriel provides the following tips to those coping with a diagnosis of metastatic cancer:

First and foremost

Be kind to yourself. The glass of wine you had at Christmas or the slab of chocolate you devoured after a challenging day at work did not cause your cancer to spread. This is not your fault.

Share your burden

Do not be ashamed of your diagnosis. Ask for help. Patients who share their diagnosis with family, friends, and work colleagues tend to cope better than patients who withdraw and isolate themselves.

You need a support base to help you, whether that be physical support in terms of providing healthy meals and caring for kids, emotional support from loved ones, or support at work.

Look after yourself

In every aspect of your life – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Try to follow a balanced, nutritious diet but don’t be overly restrictive. Aim to exercise at least 30 minutes five times a week. But listen to your body, if you’re tired and in pain, then take it slow or take a break until you feel strong enough to continue.

If you’re tearful, anxious, or struggling to cope with your diagnosis then chat to your survivorship specialist, to assist with medication and referral to a counsellor or psychologist.

Attending a support group is beneficial as you’ll meet other patients dealing with a similar diagnosis and facing similar challenges.

Make use of allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists, lymphoedema specialists, occupational therapists, acupuncturists, dietitians, etc, to help manage any symptoms you may be experiencing. Pain relief is vitally important. You don’t have to live with the pain, or suffer with symptoms associated with your diagnosis.

Financial planning

Management of metastatic disease can be expensive. Therefore, it’s important to activate any policies you may have. Chat to your loved ones about your wishes, should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Update your will and put advanced directives in place. It is best to be prepared for any eventuality, even if you don’t need to make use of these provisions!

You are not in this alone

There is a team of doctors and allied health professionals available to help you. Don’t be shy to ask questions and to verbalise your needs; you are the boss!

Try not to lend your ears out to others. Each patient is unique and each cancer is unique so every journey is different. Even well-meaning family and friends can make insensitive or misinformed comments. It’s, therefore, important to source your info from reputable sources.

Take one day at a time

And lastly, take one day at a time. You are strong and beautiful, and it is okay to fall apart before you put the pieces back together again.

Source: Buddies for Life

How CANSA Helps

CANSA offers counselling and emotional support to cancer patients and families as well as medical equipment to assist with mobility difficulties such as wheelchairs and walkers or eggshell mattresses to help with lying down more comfortably through CANSA Care Centres countrywide. Our Facebook Support groups also offer patients and caregivers support.

CANSA’s Care Rooms provide accommodation and care for terminal and bedridden cancer patients for pain control and alleviation of symptoms. Caregivers and family members are also able to take a break from the hard work of caring for a bedridden patient, called respite. Respite accommodation is available for a period of 14 days for terminal and /or bedridden patients. End of life accommodation is available for a period of up to six weeks. CANSA registered patients have priority access to services and are supported by CANSA volunteer services.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Resources: or 0860 283 343

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