Living With Cancer

Living With Cancer | Dr. Ali Ghahary

If you or your loved ones have ever been diagnosed with cancer, you know what a shock that can be. You’re often left with more questions than answers and will feel like you won’t know what to expect moving forward. Getting a cancer diagnosis can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety, and it can have a huge impact on how a person lives their day to day lives, as well as with other priorities such as school, work, finances, and personal relationships. The emotions associated with a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, which is why it’s so important for cancer patients, their friends and family to find healthy ways to cope.

Depending on the type of cancer diagnosed and the stage it’s in, family members of an individual who has fallen ill may need to take on new roles and responsibilities while their loved one undergoes treatment. These roles and responsibilities can include everything from taking care of other family members (such as children), being responsible for bill payments, doing things like chores, yard works, buying groceries and cooking. Friends and family may also be critical in taking someone who has been diagnosed with cancer to and from their treatments. Having a good support system and solid relationships can be important, and it may provide a sense of comfort and strength. Because some families can be so large, it may also be good to schedule once-a-week meetings as a way of catching up and to discuss future plans, ask questions, and spend some quality time together. A cancer diagnosis can also be hard on younger children; and while some parents may initially try to hide such a diagnosis from their children to prevent them from worrying, kids are often able to sense when something is wrong. So, if possible, try to have an open and honest approach when discussing cancer with children; and, depending on age, make sure you’re using language that is appropriate for them to understand, as well as encourage them to ask any questions they may have. At the same time, also provide them with reassurance and allow them to continue to be children by encouraging them to spend time with friends, etc. Having these discussions can often help children cope better, as well as strengthen the family unit as a whole.

Cancer can not only have an emotional toll on patients and their families, but it can also take a toll on people physically, too. For example, it’s not uncommon for individuals with cancer to lose weight or lose their hair as a result of cancer treatment. Hair loss is often the cause of chemo and radiation therapy, while the weight loss can come as a result of a lack of appetite and other factors, including nausea and vomiting, as well as what organs are affected. Individuals with cancer may also have a difficult time chewing and/or swallowing food – and the less food you eat, the more likely you are to lose weight. That being said, good nutrition is important for individuals with cancer. Having a healthy diet and getting essential nutrients – such as vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and even water – can not only help maintain body weight, but will increase your energy as well as strength, and decrease the risk of infection. Depending on the type of cancer and treatment the patient is getting, one’s prognosis can also improve with proper nourishment. There are, however, instances where someone with cancer won’t have an appetite and therefore won’t feel like eating. If this is the case, there are other alternatives that can be tried so that you get the nutrients you need. Supplements can be a good source for both nutrients and calories. They are available in various forms, such as milkshake-like beverages, puddings, and even powders. If having trouble swallowing is what’s causing the inability to eat and absorb nutrients, or if the patient has lost a lot of weight, they may require a feeding tube.

These are just some of the common concerns that patients and their families have when it comes to living with cancer. For more information and resources available in your area, visit cancer.ca.