I’m a firm believer in the power of planning and preparation. It is one of the wisest ways to approach your cancer journey because it forces you to bring the future into the present, so that you can do something about it. Now.
When my mom passed away from cancer, I was stuck in this perpetual state of “what if.” What if we had gone a different route with her treatment? What if we had been consistent with her healthy diet? What if we developed a better relationship with her doctor? Would she still be here today?
I literally felt sick to my stomach thinking about all the lost opportunities and the lack of control
we had over the situation. But after nights of replaying the scenarios over and over again, I began to realize that it wasn’t the situation we needed control over; it was our responses to them. And our responses would have been drastically different had we took the time to come up with an effective plan early on.
As humans, it’s fundamental for us to feel some sense of control, especially when it comes to our physiological needs. We seek to find some form of certainty in every situation because the unknown is uncomfortable. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
, if a sense of control is not provided for our most basic needs such as our health and safety, all of our other needs such as our self-esteem, sense of belonging and self actualization are disregarded and abandoned in favor of supporting our deeper needs. So it makes sense as to why cancer patients are usually overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness and depression. They are too busy focusing on their deteriorating healthy to even take a second and focus on their self-esteem.
The best way to take the driver’s seat in this journey is to create a cancer plan.
I’ve created the roadmap for you with www.mycanplan.com
so now it’s your job to get to the destination of remission safely with effective planning. Here’s how to get started with creating a cancer plan of attack.
1. Become the expert
Start by creating a list of questions you should ask your doctor. You want to find out as much about your cancer as possible since the goal here is to become the expert about it.
Understand where it is in your body, how likely it is to metastasize, statistics on the survival rate for your cancer based on different treatments, what you can do to build up your immune system, etc. Start by making a general list of questions and then go into specifics. Do as much research on your own as you can and then check the facts with your doctor. The more you show up to every appointment prepared, the more you’ll get from your doctor. Show him/her that you’re ready to fight and that you want this to be a team effort. If there’s something you don’t understand, do not hesitate to ask. Click here for a list of some great questions you can start off with.
2. Evaluate treatment options
Although your gut instinct is to follow every word your doctor says, do your own research about the treatment he/she is recommending. Ask questions like:
- What is the treatment is aimed to do?
- What side effects will there be?
- How will it affect your everyday life?
- What clinical trials are available to you?
- How effective has this treatment has been on your specific type of cancer? etc.
If you don’t feel fully convinced, get a second opinion. This is something I can’t stress enough. Having more than one pair of eyes on the situation will help you determine the best path for treatment. Then do your own research about what other treatments are out there. There’s a range of integrative therapies you can take advantage of and various options for supplemental treatments if you decide to go the conventional route. Come up with a list of 6 - 7 treatment options, weigh out the pros and cons of each and really get a solid understanding of what the goals for the treatment are.
3. Form your support team
Create a list of all the people in your network that would be willing to help - whether it’s by giving you a ride to an appointment, getting you connected with someone, offering financial support, etc. Once you determine who in your life can help, go out and ask them
. Chances are, they are eager to help you…they just don’t know how. You need to be direct with them and tell them exactly what you need otherwise you’ll be carrying the stress and burden on your own.
4. Create a good mood toolkit
Dr. Tony Jimenez M.D. quoted, “One negative thought can kill you faster than a bad germ.”
Try to count how many times you engage in negative self-talk each day. You might be overwhelmed by how often you criticize yourself. As humans, negative experiences tend to have a greater impact than positive experiences because once the brain starts looking for bad news, it’s stored into long-term memory quickly.
However, if you can start to recognize this negative talk and replace it with encouraging statements
, your attitude will start to change. Come up with a plan to combat against negative thoughts. Make a list of some songs you could listen to, funny videos you could watch, or activities you can do to pick your mood up. Keep a gratitude journal and plan to write in it every single night before you go to bed so you can reflect on the positive things that happened to you that day.
5. Develop a winning diet plan
What you put into your body is going to be fundamental in winning this battle. What you eat determines whether you’re feeding cancer or fighting it. Develop a solid diet plan
and be strict about it. You’re going to need to cut out a lot of things in order to detoxify and repair your immune system.
Juicing is hands-down the best piece of advice I could give any newly diagnosed cancer patient. It is the most efficient way to extract massive amounts of nutrients from produce, without having to eat several pounds of it per day. I can go on and on about the benefits of juicing but the main point is that it releases 90% of the nutrients in food and is rapidly absorbed in your body, fueling your immune system with nutrients that can turn off cancer genes, interfere with cancer cell reproduction, and cause apoptosis.
6. Schedule regular sleep and exercise
It’s essential for patients to get a good night’s sleep so that the body can rest and repair. Develop a sleep routine where you get up and go to bed at the same time each day. Also develop a regular pre-sleep routine that helps to calm you before you go to bed. For example:
- Try relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga
- Avoid using your phone at least one hour before going to bed.
Also make sure to stay as active as you’re able to
. The sooner you start exercising, the better you'll feel, the fewer medications you're likely to need, and the lower your risk will be for complications, says Andréa Leiserowitz, physical therapy supervisor at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, an affiliate of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She recommends implementing an exercise routine before treatment gets underway - especially if you have been inactive.
An effective form of exercise cancer patients can really benefit from is rebounding because it increases your G-force. Studies show that increased G-force helped increase Lymphocyte activity, which is when the lymph system transports immune cells throughout the body and supports immune function. For this reason, rebounding
is often suggested as a detoxifying and immune boosting activity. As a cancer patient, this is the best exercise you can do.
Cancer is manageable when you begin to understand the things you can and cannot control. We are all on a journey. You can be inspired, motivated and hardworking, but without direction the best you'll be is busy and rarely productive. It's not just about have a goal; It's about having a plan and understanding that every choice on your course either contributes or constricts your success. Planning is the answer to your fight against cancer. Best wishes to you on your journey!
Photo courtesy of the author
What's something that kept you on track during your cancer treatment?