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Friday, November 26, 2010

Dealing with things

We have to play with the cards we're dealt

In an earlier posting I wrote about the necessity for cancer sufferers, especially those with conditions such as mine that can cause rapid health deterioration, not to be too optimistic about the prospects for new treatments to arrive on their doorstep in time to be any use. Hope is a wonderful thing, but false hope is destructive. But this doesn’t mean that we should be unduly pessimistic. Pessimism brings you down, and mindset is really important, as far as I’m concerned.

Possible new treatments and lack of time raise a question that I want to consider here; if it is unlikely that new research will yield cures or significant remission times for us because we will probably die before an effective new treatment becomes available, where do we go from here?

I have three responses to that.
  • To make the most of the newest, most reliable, appropriate treatments that are actually available to patients and not just on the drawing board.
  • To look carefully at suggestions in recent research that seem to make sense and are easy for us to apply in the course of our daily lives.
  • To be practical about possibilities for us at the stage of life we are in and the form of cancer we have. I can speak only for myself here, for a number of reasons, but you may be able to apply this experience to your own condition.
The triangle, quadrangle or pentangle?
There are at least three people, but I hope for you, as for me, there are more, who shape our lives from the moment we are diagnosed with cancer. These are not necessarily in order of importance. The first three:
  1. Your GP
Choose well. This could be the person who manages not only your remaining life but your death. They also play a key role in acting as your go-between with the oncologist.
  2. Your Oncologist
This is a critical choice, if you have the luxury of choice. More on this later. Try to make sure your oncologist and your GP have good contact and know what each other is doing in regard to the management of your condition.
  3. You
Make sure you don’t take yourself out of the equation. Don’t underestimate the importance of your opinion in shaping decisions by your GP or your oncologist as to treatment and medication.

Other important people
I have put these at 4 and 5 because not everyone is fortunate enough to have them, though their roles may be critical.
  4. Your carer(s)
  I really hope you have someone beside you who can help you manage your condition. Not everyone does, but I have to say that if you do, you are fortunate, as I am. This person, if just one, may have to take on a role that is completely different from anything in your past.
   You are both/all going to need to adjust, and there may be huge adjustments to make. In some ways your new condition may be harder for them to adjust to than you. Not everyone can adapt easily. Huge responsibilities that could easily affect everything about your life may suddenly fall to them.
   The person who cares for you may be the most important of all in keeping you on an even keel and monitoring your state of health, organising appointments, managing your medications and waiting, waiting, waiting with you in various places connected with your treatment. 
   And remember: what was private in your life may suddenly become a matter of much more public information that is needed by a lot of people, some who don’t even know you but are part of managing your condition.
  5. Hospital staff
  It’s very likely that your treatment will involve being either an outpatient or inpatient in a hospital. Conditions vary enormously and I can’t really say what your experience is or will be, but I have found hospital staff to be incredibly competent, caring and helpful. They will be able to tell you a range of services that may be available to you. Ask them.

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