Living with cancer as a chronic condition
Has your loved one been diagnosed with cancer? The vast majority (67%) of people with cancer live for another five years or more.
A cancer is considered "stable" or "controlled" when tumors shrink or at least temporarily stop growing. This is not the same as being cured—no tumors—but it does make cancer more of a manageable chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma.
Learning to live with cancer. Ideally, when cancer becomes chronic, the survivor learns to take it on as simply another aspect of life. A return to "the way it was" isn't likely. For example, their daily or weekly schedule may now need to accommodate dietary changes, treatment sessions, or a rigid medication protocol. But there can be a happy and fulfilling "new normal" for months or years. Here are some tips to help your loved one adjust (and you too, as a family member).
Accept that you don't have control. The sooner you make peace with this, the better your overall well-being.
Acknowledge your fears and let them go. It's natural to be afraid. But fixating on fear doesn't cure the cancer. Let your worries go, as much as possible, to liberate energy for things that actually can make a difference to your day.
Get support. From support groups, counselors, clergy, friends, and family. Feelings are easier to release when you express them.
Control what you can. While you can't control the cancer, you can create a more predictable, rewarding life. For example, establish daily routines. Create and work toward realistic personal goals.
Prioritize your time. Most cancer survivors report that their "new normal" includes a new emphasis on doing things that are meaningful or fun.
Emphasize wellness. Good sleep, healthy foods, relaxation, and exercise all make it easier for the body to marshal its forces against the cancer.
Stay informed about the disease and treatments. Knowing the options and understanding what to expect promotes your ability to work effectively with providers.
Take each day as it comes. Feelings of fear, anger, or sadness often arise. Let them come, and go. Notice the peace and pleasures of the day, too.
Seek and savor reasons to feel grateful. Even though things are not as you might wish, simple joys are still possible. Strive for them.
Does your loved one have cancer?
As the North Shore and Chicago experts in family caregiving, we at Options for Aging know how difficult cancer can be, with many ups and downs. If you would like help navigating the impact on your family, give us a call at 847-868-1445. You don't have to do this alone.