We don’t talk about “fighting” MS or diabetes so why cancer? What is it about cancer that makes us talk in terms of being a “warrior” or a “fighter”?
I certainly didn’t see myself as either of those things when I was diagnosed back at the end of 2009. I was told I was a hero and inspirational – but I certainly didn’t feel like that. I just did what I felt I had to do.
Very often we are told by well-meaning family and friends that we should “think positive” – it’s a lot easier said than done believe me, especially when all your bodily hair (and I mean all of it, every last hair, everywhere!!!!) has fallen out and you are bloated because of the steroids and can’t keep any food down because of the chemo!! Yea right, all you need to do is “be positive” and you’ll feel a lot better!!
There are a lot of cancer patients who are living with long term side effects of their treatment and it can also be hard for them to have a positive outlook on life, especially when family and friends think you should forget all about it and move on with your life. Hard to do that when your quality of life is so low that it’s a struggle to even get out of bed in the morning.
I was told a few weeks ago that I should be grateful that I was still alive and someone else told me I should stop dwelling on my cancer diagnosis!!! I would have slapped both of them but I hadn’t got the energy – serious fatigue does that to you!!
Constantly seeing articles about how cancer patients should be exercising more to prevent recurrence or how it helps improve your mental well-being is all well and good but if you’ve been left with serious long term side effects that mean you can sometimes barely walk because of pain or struggle with serious fatigue which means even getting out of bed or having a shower is a major struggle then anything like exercise is out of the question.
Added to all the physical pain and discomfort is the fact that emotionally and psychologically you are a total mess and quality of life for many cancer patients can be very low. Long term support is virtually non-existent, that’s if you’ve been lucky to have much from the start. Very often the only care and support a cancer patient gets is from their partner or close family members which means strain is put on relationships. It’s hard when your husband or wife becomes your carer; it can alter the dynamics of a relationship, sometimes permanently.
A whole new field has opened up in social media circles, that of cancer coaching. People offering advice on how to get your life back on track post cancer. How to “find your new normal” or discover your "new path” – all well and good but the practical support that many cancer patients need – like how to afford to pay the mortgage or get to and from appointments when you have to rely on public transport or how to adjust to a change in body image post cancer – is often just not there. If you live on your own or have no close family to help out or live in an isolated or rural community then it can be even harder to cope.
Very often, HCP’s are only interested in treating the cancer and the after effects or long term side effects of that treatment are of little concern to them. They need to start realising that the treatment they prescribe can sometimes have devastating consequences on a patient’s quality of life and they need to take that into account. Long term care and support needs to be factored into any treatment plan. Patients are very often left without any safety net of support when treatment ends and that is not fair.
Getting a cancer diagnosis changes your life forever. Some people are able to move on and put their diagnosis behind them but for many, it continues to be something they have to live with day after day for the rest of their lives.