Expert advice from Reframe, leaders in cancer support
If you've recently been diagnosed with cancer it can be difficult to know where to begin. The first thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different. Whether you have quickly come to terms with your diagnosis or you're feeling overwhelmed, it's ok to feel the way you do.
Read on for some ideas and advice from the experienced team at Reframe. We hope it'll help.
1. Set up a support network
Family and friends will want to help you but may not know-how. Make a list of anything that will lighten your load during treatment. Simple things like shopping for essentials, freezing some meals, doing the school run or a load of washing, helping with housework and walking the dog might really help. Taking some pressure off will give you more time to focus on recovery.
2. Create a WhatsApp group
Updating several people after a check-up or via a weekly bulletin will save you a lot of energy. Sharing your updates can be a good way of keeping friends and family informed without feeling exhausted by explaining over and again.
3. Look for financial support
When you're feeling up to it, have a look through your employee benefits and see if there are any useful services, for example, an employee assistance programme, some counselling sessions, a wellbeing app, or private medical insurance. If you feel comfortable, speak to your manager or an HR rep as they may have policies in place to make things a little easier for you. And don't forget to check if you're entitled to government grants and discounted services through your insurance provider too.
4. Write it down
Writing about your experiences can be a very cathartic experience, whether it's scribbling in a private diary or following the example of Emma, one of our clients at Reframe. Emma's approach with friends and family was to treat her normally and to keep her laughing. She was soon bombarded with positive messages seeking updates, so she decided to send out a weekly 'mini blog'. After encouragement from her friends, Emma went on to write and publish her very own book. You can read about Emma's journey here.
5. Join a support group
Visit the websites of the UK's national charities dedicated to supporting people with specific cancers (including Prostate Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Now) and you'll find a wealth of useful information. They offer helplines, virtual support groups, helpful videos, and chat forums, which provide a safe space to speak to people outside of your close network. You might also find a small charity nearby where you can meet others face to face, as well as groups on Facebook too: Ostomy Lifestyle Athletes, is for people with stomas to share thoughts and tips for staying fit after surgery.
6. Discover a healthier you
While waiting for treatment, focussing on your general wellbeing will mean you're in the best shape possible to help you cope when it begins. Eating a healthy diet, rich in Vitamin C, iron, and protein will boost your immune system. Regular exercise will improve blood circulation, keep your muscles and joints supple and help control your weight. Life Kitchen offers free cookery classes and recipes for people with taste and smell loss. Deep breathing, pelvic floor exercises, yoga, and relaxation techniques can help prevent complications after treatment and can reduce stress.
What to expect after your diagnosis?
It may be a few days or a few weeks before you see a consultant. They'll explain your cancer type, grading, staging, and treatment options. A cancer nurse will be there too to support you and answer your questions as well as advising on what to expect in the coming months. Treatment might take place the next day or maybe a few weeks later, depending on what the consultant feels is the best option for you. All cancer types are different so some people need to start treatment immediately while others might have a follow-up scan a few months later.
It is perfectly natural to worry about and be upset by your situation, but you're not alone. Help is always available from charities, support groups, your employer, your GP and hospital, and your family and friends.
A little about Reframe
Reframe is a holistic cancer service that supports the entire journey for those diagnosed with cancer and their carers. We empower those we support by providing a dedicated team to make it easier to understand their options and to get the best possible treatment. For more information visit our website at Reframe.co.uk