Tips from patients
- Lavender oil sprinkled on your pillow to help you sleep at night.
- A carrier oil with frankincense and lavender mixed together. Mix in the palm of your hand and massage onto the skin. Frankincense is known to help ease anxiety, stress and is a wonderful healer when going through trauma.
- Loads of water! Drink, drink, drink. For a some flavour add a lemon or lime.
- Gargle! Helps to avoid mouth sores, ulcers when having chemo. Gargle a blend of water, baking soda and salt after eating. If you forget, have your support person remind you.
- Keep a supply of fresh chilled pineapple and ice blocks. If your not that hungry it's a refreshing snack and the ice blocks are good for nausea.
- Eat when you are hungry, don't keep set meal times. Eating can help keep nausea at bay.
- Nausea - the tip here is to keep it at bay! Once it arrives it's very tricky to get rid of. Keep on a strict med schedule, a key tip.
- Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you need pain relief or help sleeping while you are dealing with your diagnosis and treatment. Its normal to be scared and to have sleep problems and asking your doctor if it might help you to take the odd sleeping pill is definitely ok.
- Keep you med intake in a note book. Record the time and what you took. Your memory may not be as good as normal.
- Hot flushes, if you get these use a cold wet flannel and wheat sacks. A cold flannel can help with nausea also.
- Hair loss, a nice head massage with organic coconut oil can help when your scalp is sensitive or a little scabby.
- A vitamin C hit each day. Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C (available at leading Pharmacies) - encapsulates the C molecules in liposomes made from Essential Phospholipids, which protect the C from destruction by your digestive juices. Within minutes of taking Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C, liposomes filled with Vitamin C are transported directly into the bloodstream, and into the cells.
- Keep a folder for all your information; section it into - Appointments, Hospital Correspondence, Medication, Patient Care Info, Pathology and Surgery Reports, Diet & Supplements, Cancer Society Info, Miscellaneous. Keep your appointments at the front for easy access so you can find the ones that are coming up.
- Take advantage of the Cancer Society's counselling service, it can be incredibly helpful to talk to someone outside your family and friends, to explain your fears and concerns and get some tools to help deal with those.
- Remember to focus on the things you can control (attitude, what you eat, how to spend your time, who to talk to) and try to let go of the things your can't control (treatment, the future, other peoples attitudes etc).
Tips for Caregivers
- Find YOUR support system: When a friend or loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it's an emotional time. Many people find talking to other caregivers who are coping with stress, uncertainty or loneliness helps them be better caregivers.
- Gather information: There is truth to the phrase, " Knowledge is power." Visit websites and gather information. Learn more about your loved one's cancer diagnosis and treatment options.
- Recognise a "New Normal": Patients and caregivers alike report feeling a loss of control after a cancer diagnosis. Learning how to manage this loss of control and care for your loved one will lead to a 'new normal' - a new understanding of what your life is like now. It may also help to acknowledge that your home life, finances, and friendships may change for a period of time. Try to manage each day's priority as it comes.
- Relieve Your Mind, Recharge Your Body: Mini-breaks are an easy way to replenish your energy and lower your stress. Try simple activities like taking a walk around the block or closing your eyes for 10 minutes in a comfortable chair. Taking time for you both is not selfish, it's necessary. Seek ways to rejuvenate your spirit. Feeling spiritually connected can provide comfort and may also help you to put your situation into perspective.
- Take Comfort in Others: Many caregivers feel a loss of personal time over the course of their loved one's illness. Keep in mind that while you are taking on new and additional responsibilities, you are sill allowed a life of your own. You will need your friends and community to give you support as you support your loved one.
- Plan for the Future: While planning may be difficult, it can help. Try to schedule fun activities on days when your loved one is not feeling the side effects of treatment. You can also give yourselves something to look forward to by planning together how you will celebrate the end of treatment, or a portion of treatment. It's also important to plan for the possibility of losing your loved one. All paperwork such as healthcare agent, power of attorney and a will. Having essential paperwork under control will allow you to have peace of mind.
- Accept a Helping Hand: It's okay to have "helpers." In fact, you may find that learning to let go and to say "YES!" will ease your anxiety and lift your spirits. Keep a list of all care-giving tasks, small to large. That way, when someone asks, "is there anything I can do?", you are able to offer specific choices.
- Be Mindful of YOUR Health: In order to be strong for your loved one, you need to take care of yourself. Be sure to tend to any physical ailments of your own that arise as well as get regular checkups and screenings. Eat well and get enough sleep.
- Consider Exploring Stress-Management Techniques: You may find that mediation, yoga, listening to music or simply breathing deeply will help relieve your stress. There also are mind-body (or stress-reduction) interventions that use meditation, guided imagery, and healing therapies that tap your creative outlets such as art, music or dance.
- Do What You Can, Admit What You Can't: No one can do everything. It's okay to acknowledge your limits. Come to terms with feeling overwhelmed (it will happen) and resolve to be firm when deciding what you can and cannot handle on your own. Your loved one needs you. You cannot do this alone. Together, you can get through.
What do you say when someone has a Gynaecological Cancer?
A diagnosis of a gynaecological cancer is deeply upsetting and a shock - not just for the patient, but also for family, friends and work colleagues. The woman with the diagnosis may be dealing with all sorts of feelings, such as anxiety, anger, fear and even guilt. They may feel very vonerable and exposed, therefore, more sensitive to comments than they usually would be.
It is important to think about how we communicate.
To help you find the right words, here are some ideas:-
- You'll be fine!
Instead say: I'm so sorry to hear that. What a shock for you.
- Stay positive
Instead say: I'm sure you'll have your ups and downs. Do call me if you're having a down day and we can do something together.
- I'd never do chemo/it's so toxic...
Respect the patient's choice regarding treatment, try not to impose your own beliefs. It is impossible for us to know what we really would do in that situation ourselves unless we have been in that position.
Instead say: Chemo treatment has been tried and tested, and really helps people. They're much less toxic than the cancer itself, and the medicines for stopping side effects are much better than they used to be.
- My friend died of a gynae cancer
They don't want to hear this!
- If you need help, let me know
This is well-intentioned, but don't offer help if you can't follow through. Try and be more specific with your offer, for example; How about I bring dinner on Monday or pick up the kids after school or I'll pop in Thursday and do your washing for the week.
Be a friend, instead of texting, pick up the phone!