Cancer Tips

Here is a list of tips for family and friends as well as cancer patients that may help you.

For Family and Friends

  • Take your health seriously:
    • Be vigilant about your annual medical check-ups (and for women, know your bodies – Click here for a 5 step process) and be persistent when necessary. Early detection can make the difference in beating cancer. The reward is well worth the minor annual inconvenience.
    • Investigate any lumps or concerns immediately (post-treatment, the rule of thumb is to wait two weeks, and if the symptoms still persist or you feel uneasy, see your doctor.)
    • Eat Healthy – including fruits and vegetables and lots of water. Limit alcohol!
    • Shape Up – Just 10 minutes 3 times a day can help protect against colon and breast cancer.
    • Cover Up! The number of skin cancer cases in Manitoba has increased by two-thirds since 1990. The good news is 90% of skin cancer can be cured if caught early! So, SLIP on clothing, SLAP on a hat and sunglasses and SLOP on sunscreen!
    • Be Tobacco Free! Don't use tobacco products of any kind and avoid second-hand smoke. If you are a smoker, quit now and reduce your lung cancer risk by up to 90%! If you don't smoke, avoid second-hand smoke at all costs! Cigarettes contain 57 known carcinogens, and the smoke from a burning cigarette contains 70% more of these substances than inhaled smoke.
  • Appreciate and do not abuse your sick days at your work.
    • While it may be tempting to call in sick just because you want a 'mental health day' accumulated sick days can provide a huge amount of financial comfort when you're going through a challenging period with your diagnosis and treatments.
  • Words of encouragement to say to cancer patients – Here is a list of favorites, compiled from Darryl's and my experience as well as a few other cancer colleagues. The key point is, anything is usually better than nothing… short and sweet is often appreciated too.
    • Thinking of you and wishing you well or a speedy recovery.
    • Our thoughts and prayers are with you. (Note: this can be risky if the patient is not spiritual or accepting the diagnosis well)
    • You're doing great… keep up your positive attitude.
    • You look great. You rock!
    • You can do it… Go girl go! (especially when in the middle of treatments) – My personal favourite!
  • How to help cancer patients
    • Drop by with coffee for a visit. You can:
      • Talk about ordinary day-to-day things
      • Play games
      • Do some chores, such as taking out the garbage or some laundry
    • Take care of children
    • Organize a meal schedule
      • So meals don't all arrive on same day
      • Allows family to still eat well when you don't feel up to cooking or eating
    • Organize a "sharing circle" – to share positive and inspirational thoughts with the patient
  • Staying positive in life
    • One of my most frequently asked question was ... "how do you remain so positive"? It's simple:
      • Every day you have a choice, to focus on the positive, or the negative… I choose the positive.
        • Helen Keller – "For every door closed, there is another one that is opened. Look for the open doors."
        • Every cloud has a silver lining – focus on the silver lining.
        • The glass is either half full or half empty – focus on the half full side.
    • Focus on increasing the positive vibrations in your life – people you associate with, your response to life events, and simply repeating on a regular basis all the things in life that you are grateful for.
    • Make a habit to repeat positive thoughts at:
      • Bedtime just before falling asleep (to allow your subconscious to continue the positive vibrations while you sleep)
      • First thing when you wake up
      • Throughout the day
        • When you catch yourself pressing "pause" to consider your response to a situation
        • When you are in a line up or other stressful event
        • When you are taking a "breather" to relax.

For Cancer patients

  • Do accept help when offered. Ask for help when needed.
  • Have someone at home to help with kids and family responsibilities for the first few days after chemo.
  • Do have a second person with you at all initial diagnosis appointments to record conversations and information. There is so much information coming at you that it's easy to become overloaded and forget key information.
  • Do take a person with you to the sentinel node injections. The nurses prefer you have someone's hand to hold on to – the injections can be painful – short in duration, but quite intense!
  • Do have a person drive you and pick you up from your surgeries, and at least your first radiation and chemo appointments just to be safe until you know what your reactions will be.
  • Recovery times – generally it takes the same period of time as your diagnosis and treatments to recover physically, and twice this time to recover emotionally.
  • Post treatment depression – many cancer patients have a harder time handling life after treatments are completed for two reasons:
    • Their security net is gone - they are no longer surrounded on a daily basis by medical staff watching out for them
    • The stress of trying to reintegrate into life
      • Should you make changes to your life
      • Trying to get caught up on the many tasks left unattended while you focused on your health
  • Recognize that it's often harder (in its own way) for the spouse watching you go through the cancer than it is on yourself. Primarily because it's hard watching someone you love be sick and feeling helpless about it.
  • Use electronic media to keep people up-to-date on your health status. This significantly reduces the number of phone calls and interruptions from concerned and well intended people. Some examples are:
    • Mass distribution emails
    • Facebook or your own personal website
    • www.caringbridge.org is a great website set up to help keep family and friends updated.
    • FINALLY – where possible, get someone else to send out the updates for you – especially during the diagnosis stage when everything seems to overwhelming.
  • Everyone has different coping mechanisms when dealing with hardships in life.
    • There is no right or wrong, but you must determine what works for you, and understand that other people will handle hardships in their own way as well.
    • Some people like to talk to other people and attend support groups. Some people like to deal with it on their own. Once again, either way is acceptable, although I do believe it is imperative that everyone has at least one person that they can talk to at the right time – whether it be a spouse, friend, or colleague.
  • Do not overreact to different people's reactions to your news – you learn many things over the course of your cancer experience – one of them is how different people react to the news. Some people who you barely know are so supportive, whereas others who are closer friends or family, are hardly there for you. My conclusion is to not read anything into the different reactions. Everyone reacts differently to a friend in a critical health situation. Many people think about you but don't know what words to say. They don't want to bother you at a bad time, so they don't know if they should call or not. And people also have their own busy lives and problems to be taking care of. It is not worth the stress trying to figure out these issues. Simply accept your friends/family for who they are and what they can offer, then move on.
  • Keep a sense of humor!

The information provided on this site is not intended to be medical advice. Consult a physician about any questions or concerns related to your health.