Cancer Survivorship: Tips for a Caregiver

Wednesday, June 06, 2012 9:23 AM comments (0)

Cancer SurvivorshipBeing diagnosed with cancer, at any stage, can be overwhelming and highly emotional. Not only does this news immediately affect the person who is diagnosed with the disease, but it also impacts their loved ones.

As one moves through diagnosis to treatment, often friends and/or family members will serve as caregivers.  National Cancer Survivors’ Day—held on June 3, 2012—is and an opportunity to recognize and celebrate life, and all of those who have been impacted by cancer.

Carol Flanagan, RN, Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program, offers the following words of wisdom to cancer caregivers:

  • Get educated. Learn as much as you can about the disease. While you won’t be able to relate firsthand to what your family member or friend is undergoing, knowing what is going on with his or her illness and emotions can help you provide a better support system.
  • Be positive. It’s normal to be nervous and scared. Maintaining a positive attitude, and bringing fun and laughs into your loved one’s daily life, will help ease the stress of the situation. Staying positive will also help keep you healthy and upbeat, two things that may be very hard to maintain through the journey.
  • Identify a team. Involve other friends and family members in the care process. There will be days when you’ll need a break, and having a network of caregivers can be very helpful both to you and to your loved one. If it’s helpful, create a “to-do” list that can be shared among various caregivers.
  • Be resourceful. Find out what resources are available in your community for people going through a similar journey. Helping with this research can take some of the stress and anxiety of the disease off of the person with cancer. Be sure to look for online resources too. Feel free to join a couple groups of your own, if it will be helpful.

If you’ve cared for a loved one with cancer, what advice would you give others?

Surviving Cancer – Learning How to Live Again

Monday, March 05, 2012 8:44 AM comments (0)

Cancer is hard on everyone—families, friends and especially on the individual—even if the outcome is successful. As advances in cancer treatments have led to more cancer survivors, the necessity for supporting and nurturing survivors through the end of treatment and their cancer experience is necessary.Surviving-Cancer

Carol Rosenberg, MD, Director of NorthShore’s Preventive Health Initiatives and Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program, provides the following tips to help cancer survivors and their loved ones navigate the end of their battle with cancer. These help to ensure quality of life and long-term health:

  • Learn how to transition from being a cancer patient to a cancer survivor.
    The transition from an intense oncology treatment environment back to your community, family and primary care environment can be difficult. It is important to recognize that you need to develop a new “normal.” 
  • Develop a survivorship care plan.
    After treatment, it’s smart to compile a portable detail of medical records, resources and information that can be shared with your other healthcare providers. As part of the Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program at NorthShore, a survivorship care plan is documented in the electronic medical record. This includes a summary of the survivor’s cancer history and treatment, a personalized risk assessment, preventive practice recommendations and more.
  • Prepare for concerns and struggles upon exiting treatment.
    Depending on the type of cancer, concerns post-treatment may vary. The most common concerns for all cancer survivors are fear of recurrence, fatigue, anxiety and weight gain (especially for breast cancer survivors). In the case of breast cancer, lymphedema (swelling of the affected arm) is a major concern.
  • Know how often you should be checked for cancer recurrence.
    The frequency for monitoring recurrence will depend on the type of cancer, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines, and your oncologist’s familiarity with your particular cancer. Most people who are finished with an active treatment protocol are monitored by their oncologist in three- to six-month intervals for the first five years. Some cancers are monitored more frequently.

Are you or someone you know a cancer survivor? What changes to your or their lifestyle have been made? What words of wisdom do you have for others?

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Additional resources and useful information for survivors are offered on a monthly basis at the MRW Survivorship 101 seminars offered through NorthShore’s Living in the Future (LIFE) Cancer Survivorship Program. These monthly educational workshops address major topics such as a lifestyle, psychosocial issues, genetics, and insurance and employability.

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