I have a bone to pick with the medical community.
It seems that pretty much every cancer treatment center is touting the fact that “every cancer is unique” or “every cancer is different”. Whatever my consternation about this messaging, the assertions are probably 100% correct – clinically.
The problem is that this approach does not recognize the mental challenges encountered by every cancer patient are very, very similar. The fact that the mental challenges are similar for most patients is an enormous opportunity that is being completely missed by the medical establishment.
What is the opportunity? A program to help every patient manage the stress that comes with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. It’s the reason I wrote my book.
You see, there are all sorts of resources available for cancer patients but really nothing that can help patients guide themselves through the mental challenges of cancer in any organized and sequential way.
So what would this program look like? Something exactly like my book – here are the highlights I would give to a cancer patient – step by step and in order:
Step 1 – Right after diagnosis – take steps to get all of the negative thoughts swirling around in your head under control. You can never banish all the negative thoughts completely but you do need to be able to turn the noise down in your head so you can think clearly enough to be the best patient possible.
Step 2 – Learn to advocate for yourself. Learn where there may be points of flexibility for your treatment plan. Ask for anything and everything that could make the process of your treatment more comfortable. The answer won’t always be yes, but asking for small accommodations can make a very stressful time more bearable.
Step 3 – Study, study, study – your treatment. Know exactly what is planned to happen and what may happen with every single procedure in your treatment plan. Know how you will respond to expected challenges and possible side effects or complications. Why? It’s the easiest and best way to reduce stress about your treatment.
Step 4 – Get ready – ahead of time. Almost every patient experiences stress, pain, complications or side effects during treatment. Be ready for all of these things by having a plan on how, exactly, you will react to these challenges BEFORE they occur.
Step 5 – Work to get back to normal – starting today. Cancer is hugely disruptive both physically and in your everyday life. When you are able, work, on purpose, to try to reestablish some normalcy in your life. It’s the first step in returning to your “normal” life”.
I hope these help in some small way. If I could leave you with one thought – don’t solely react as a patient, work to learn about what is ahead and plan your responses well ahead of when they will be needed.