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Maintaining Quality of Life When You Have Cancer

Recovering from cancer is not a simple process. First you have to follow your prescribed course of treatment. Then, there are follow-up appointments and other aftercare. It can take a while to get back to your normal activities. To help you make the transition back to your precancer lifestyle, ask your healthcare provider and other specialists to design a rehabilitation program for you. Its goal should be to strengthen you both physically and mentally. Here are some specific items you might want to discuss with your healthcare providers:

  • Where can you get in touch with other people who have had a similar type of cancer who are willing to share their experiences, hopes, and fears? The American Cancer Society has free programs and services to help cancer survivors and their families manage their lives from treatment to recovery. For more information, call 1-800-227-2345.

  • How can you actively eliminate as many factors that increase your risk of the cancer coming back or developing a new cancer as possible? Talk to your healthcare provides about what to expect going forward. This should include about the risk of a cancer recurrence, late or ongoing side effects of cancer treatment, and your overall plan for follow-up visits and cancer prevention. Keep a personal notebook or record of your cancer history. Be sure to include all your follow-up visits and make sure all your healthcare providers have up-to-date information.

  • Where can you find counseling for you and your family to help you keep healthy relationships during your care and as you try to get back to your routine? A number of healthcare providers can help you and your family. Counselors can help your family with psychosocial problems (such as trouble adjusting or family conflict), practical problems (such as financial concerns or problems at school), and with mental health problems that can make it harder to cope (such as depression or anxiety). Talk to your healthcare provider about finding a counselor in your area with a specialty in survivorship.

  • Where can you get help paying your medical bills? There are many resources for patients and families finding it difficult to pay for the extra expenses of cancer treatment. The social worker in your healthcare provider's office will be able to help you find sources of help specific to your needs.

  • Who can help you understand your rights at work and about keeping your job? Survivors of cancer may have long-term disabilities that make it hard to work. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is intended to make it possible for people who can do the essential parts of their job to go back to work or keep working during and after cancer treatment. Even when a person with cancer doesn't have a disability, he or she may be thought of as being disabled. This alone can set the stage for discrimination at work, and the ADA addresses this as well. For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.

  • What kinds of physical activity are safe for you to do? Just as physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of getting cancer, research indicates that exercise decreases the risk of a cancer recurrence and improves survival. Talk to your healthcare provider about how much exercise is recommended for your specific condition and health and consider joining a survivor group that exercises together.