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10 Things to Stop Doing If You Have Cancer

How to Cope Better, Increase Your Quality of Life and Reduce Stress


Updated March 08, 2012

Being diagnosed with cancer comes with challenges that are unique. Treatment concerns, side effects and the diagnosis itself can impose stress, decrease quality of life and make coping difficult. The good news is that changing certain behaviors can help.

1. Stop Feeling Like You're The Only One

When you're diagnosed with cancer, it's easy to feel like you are the only one. You may have friends and family giving their support. But without having someone who has been in your shoes, it can feel like you are alone in your battle. A cancer diagnosis creates a perfect opportunity to seek out support, not only from loved ones but also from fellow cancer patients and survivors. Lasting friendships have arisen from the common bond of having cancer. Support groups - online or traditional face-face-face meetings - are a great way to reach out to others with cancer.

2. Stop Taking Medical Advice from Friends

Friends are great for support, but you may want to think twice before taking medical advice from them, even though their intentions may be good. The medical advice from friends is often based on treatment tales from their friends and relatives. They often don't know all the factors involved in that person's treatment - like why a chemotherapy drug was chosen over another or what other factors were included in the treatment plan. Friends are great for lending their support when you are making treatment decisions.

3. Stop Eating Unhealthily

Good nutrition is absolutely essential during cancer treatment and beyond. Eating well can help fight cancer fatigue, help you heal faster after surgery and help maintain your weight as your body battles the stress imposed by treatment. During treatment, you are eating to supply your body with the nutrients it needs to function, not to satisfy emotional hunger. So, before you hit the fast-food drive-through on your way home, think about how what you are about to eat will benefit your body!

Unfortunately, eating can be a challenge for cancer patients. Treatment side effects can cause food aversions, which can cause malnourishment and complications. To get adequate nutrition, sometimes you have to think outside of the box. While meat and poultry may have been your pre-cancer sources of protein, you may not be able to tolerate them well during treatment. Alternative sources of protein, like eggs and even special meal replacement protein shakes, can be a great source of protein and other vital nutrients that are missing from your diet. Consulting a dietician or nutritionist who has experience with the dietary needs of cancer patients can be especially helpful.

4. Stop Asking Why

When diagnosed with cancer, one of the first questions you may have asked yourself is, "Why me?" Unless you have a genetic factor or a condition that increases your risk of cancer, then you will not likely pinpoint exactly why you developed the disease. Cancer can be caused by a myriad of reasons. When you are diagnosed, it is not necessarily important to ask why, but how: How will you successfully treat your cancer and overcome the challenges of coping with the disease?

5. Stop Refusing Help from Others

The sad fact is that your everyday life does not stand still when you have cancer. Work, family obligations and maintaining a household all demand your attention, even during treatment. Eventually, it all may begin to accumulate and you will become overwhelmed. The best way to prevent this from happening is to ask for help. Cancer patients often resist asking for help because they don't want to burden others. Leaning on others may make patients feel like the cancer has taken an upper-hand by interfering in their daily life.

6. Stop Smoking

If you are smoker with cancer, it's not too late to quit, even if you have a type of cancer caused by tobacco use, like lung cancer. A 2012 study found that many cancer patients continue to smoke, despite being diagnosed with cancer. The effects of smoking during treatment can be substantial. Smoking can compromise the effectiveness of treatment, delay healing after surgery and worsen treatment side effects like stomach upset. Worst of all, smoking during treatment can potentially affect treatment outcome.

7. Stop Being Afraid to Ask Questions or Voice Opinions About Treatment

Asking questions and voicing your opinions to your healthcare team are critical to understanding your disease and its treatment. Unfortunately, some people with cancer may feel intimidated or embarrassed to ask their doctor questions. When you have cancer, the relationship with your doctor is like a partnership. Together, you are working toward the common goal of treating your disease. Communication should be open and effortless, but that's not always the case. Working toward a better doctor-patient relationship can yield many rewards.

8. Stop Forgetting that Intimacy Is Still Important

Intimacy with your partner is important during treatment. Maintaining an intimate relationship with your significant other can be therapeutic. It can help build your self-esteem, and the closeness can help you cope better. You may be thinking that sex is low on the priority list when you have cancer, but don't confuse sex with intimacy. You can still be intimate with your partner and not have sex.

9. Stop Being Afraid of Getting a Second Opinion

A second opinion can make a difference; in some cases, it can dramatically change treatment outcomes. But many patients are reluctant to get a second opinion. They feel as if they are committing "patient infidelity" by seeking the opinion of another doctor. Second opinions are so common that doctors are not offended when you decide to seek one. In fact, they often welcome and even encourage it.

10. Stop Thinking There Is No Hope

Wouldn't it be wonderful if hope could be bottled in a jar? When battling cancer, a little hope can sometimes be hard to come by. Having an optimistic attitude is important; it can help you better cope with treatment. While a good attitude may not make your treatment more effective, it can make your cancer journey less stressful.

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