Learning that you or someone you love has cancer is a life-changing moment. After hearing the word “cancer,” people are often overwhelmed, anxious and fearful. You may feel paralyzed and numb, not knowing what to do next. There are many aspects to preparing for your cancer journey—medical, financial, physical, and emotional.
I’m a cancer nurse navigator at Deaconess Cancer Services (more on that below), so in this article, I want to talk about how to help you prepare as a patient, to receive the best care possible.
- Begin to prepare yourself emotionally and spiritually for this journey. That means different things to different people, but finding your way through cancer may include prayer, meditation, or pastoral support.
- Find/build a support system. This can vary from person to person, but you need to have someone—or multiple people—who can help you through your journey. Whether it’s a couple of close family members or friends, or a community to rally around you, be thinking about what you want. You may need help of various kinds, whether you’ll require physical care during treatment, or simply need to accept help in the form of errands and activities.
- Start a notebook, binder, etc. to collect information. You need to be able to take notes, as well as have a place to keep papers such as test results and other forms. (If you are a Deaconess patient, MyChart can help with this.)
- Try to identify someone from your support system who can be present for as many physician appointments as possible. Not every cancer treatment appointment will include talking with your physician, but many appointments will include the sharing and gathering of information. Having another person to listen, take notes and help understand what your doctor or other caregivers tell you is priceless.
- If you want to do online research to prepare you for what to expect, I recommend that you find only a small number of reputable sites, and stick with those. There’s a lot of misinformation online, and much of it is frightening. There are sites I recommend for informing yourself about the type of cancer you have, treatments and what to expect overall.
A good starting point is to visit Deaconess.com/YourHealth. MyHealth is our virtual resource center. We have articles and videos on cancer from our own physicians, but we also link to other reputable sites with extensive information about nearly every form of cancer. Some of those include www.cancer.org (American Cancer Society), and www.cancer.gov (National Cancer Institute). Also, websites related to your specific type of cancer, such as www.lungcanceralliance.org for lung cancer, or www.komen.org for breast cancer, can give you additional information.
Remember that you are your physician’s partner in your care. It’s important to be as educated as possible about your cancer so that you can help make informed decisions about your treatment and care. But trust your doctor. He or she wants the best outcome for you, and will work with you to help you get there. Be prepared for your appointment by reading any information or watching videos they suggest, and writing down questions in your notebook.
As a nurse navigator with Deaconess Cancer Services, I help people find their way through the cancer treatment process. My role often includes coordinating of appointments to help make them happen more quickly, and providing medical information about treatment and what to expect. But I also help with day-to-day issues, such as finding transportation for patients who need help getting to appointments, or helping them understand insurance or assisting with other financial issues. I can also provide emotional and practical support for patients and their families. Most of my patients are lung cancer patients, but I help patients with other forms of cancer as well. Deaconess is the only cancer care provider in the region to offer cancer nurse navigators.
For more information about Deaconess Cancer Services, including our expert cancer team, patient stories, and patient education and support, visit www.deaconess.com/cancer. To reach us by phone, you can call the Chancellor Center for Oncology at (812)858-2273.