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A cancer diagnosis can bring a host of emotions, and everyone experiences treatment differently. Emily Gentry, R.N., BSN, oncology program coordinator at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, offers these tips for living well during treatment.
1. Focus on the gains. It’s easy to dwell on the losses that cancer can bring. Gentry encourages people to also see the gains—such as new perspectives on personal values, goals and priorities and the deepening of personal relationships.
2. Keep moving. During therapy, it can be hard to maintain a steady exercise program. That’s why Baylor Plano offers the Healthy Steps™ program to help patients at every level learn exercises they can do.
3. Eat well. “During cancer therapy, it’s important that the cells repair themselves,” Gentry says. They need protein and calories, she explains. A dietitian can help develop a personalized program. Treatment, though, can wreak havoc on a person’s nutrition, Gentry says. “So, we encourage people undergoing treatment to eat whatever is tasting good—even if that’s ice cream,” she says.
4. Accept (and ask for) help. Fatigue is a common side effect of treatment, Gentry says. Let people bring dinner. Allow your friends to watch your children for a night. Use adaptive aids for daily activities. “We have lots of moms going through breast cancer treatment trying to balance families, jobs and activities for kids,” Gentry says. “This is a time in their lives when they need to make themselves more of a priority than they’re used to.”
5. Find support. Gentry says support groups are helpful for many cancer patients. “They may experience different emotions than they’ve had to deal with before,” she says. “Once they know other people have had these emotions, it helps.”
6. Deal with stress. Whether it’s deep breathing, guided imagery, yoga or journaling, Gentry encourages patients to find a way to cope with the stress of treatment.
7. Communicate. “Communication with friends and family is key,” Gentry says. Be open about your diagnosis and treatment. Let them know how you’re feeling, and make sure they know what you need (and don’t need) from them.
Find strength in numbers with one of the oncology support groups at Baylor Plano including our monthly breast cancer, SPOHNC (Support for People with Head and Neck Cancer) and Us Too prostate cancer support groups, plus our quarterly Look Good … Feel Better® program. To register, call 1-800-4BAYLOR or find the class online.
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