Guide to Living Well with Cancer
With cancer survival rates doubling in the past 40 years, and death rates from cancer falling by 10 percent in the past decade alone1, there is a greater emphasis being placed on living well with the disease.
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Alongside this, we are witnessing an increase in the willingness of people to talk frankly about their experiences of cancer and a change in the tone of the conversation. The breast cancer charity, CoppaFeel, raises awareness of breast cancer amongst young people using light hearted, straightforward language and Prostate Cancer UK enjoys strong support amongst the footballing community in getting its message across.
In this guide, our aim is to point you towards resources that will help you to live well with cancer.
Sorting out your finances
For some people, a cancer diagnosis prompts a decision to rearrange their finances so that they can enjoy a family holiday or tick experiences off their bucket list. Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of services that are very useful – their budget planner is simple to use and provides analysis of your expenditure so that it is easy for you to create a budget for that trip of a lifetime.
Cancer Research UK also has a list of advisors covering mortgages, investments and debt management which can be found here.
You are not obliged to inform your bank if you have had a cancer diagnosis, but it may be able to help you to rearrange your finances to support your future plans. As an example, Lloyds Bank has a dedicated support team, trained by Macmillan Cancer Support.
Wearing what you want
Having cancer does not mean that you no longer care about how you look. The Cancer Fashionista blog is written by a fashion publicist with a family history (and personal diagnosis) of cancer. It takes a fresh approach to thinking about how to cope with the side affects of cancer such as hair loss and shopping for clothes post-surgery.
Another straight-talking blog, ‘Me and My Stoma’ carries a list of suppliers who specialise in clothing that makes life easier (and more comfortable) for those living with a stoma. It also provides useful information on funding that you may be able to access to help with the costs of specialist clothing.
You can also find a comprehensive guide to selecting and buying wigs on the Macmillan Cancer Support website that covers everything from expected costs to fitting and suppliers.
Food and drink
Chemotherapy can negatively impact appetite and sense of taste, making some foods less enjoyable. Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital has created a guide that helps to address some of the common issues around food that you may encounter when you’re undergoing chemotherapy including useful tips on how to combat nausea.
For those being treated with radiotherapy, Cancer Research UK’s guide on food and drink during radiotherapy places an emphasis on how to eat well alongside information on how to counteract side affects including sore mouth and tiredness.
Sex and sexuality
Perhaps a taboo topic for some, but sex doesn’t need to stop with a cancer diagnosis, or after treatment. Macmillan Cancer Support has a created a wealth of online resources that look at aspects including your emotions, sexual appetite and how to maintain a physical relationship during and after treatment. Alongside broad information, it also contains specific resources for men and for women that go into greater detail on how treatment and surgery can affect your sexual wellbeing.
Regular exercise not only helps to reduce the likelihood of some cancers occurring, it can also help to improve your overall health and wellbeing after treatment and during recovery. Services vary by geography (we found Cancer Rehabilitation in Berkshire and Maggie’s Centres which offer exercise classes in a range of locations across the UK) – to find something local to you it’s worth speaking to your GP or having a look on the MacMillan Cancer Support website.
It’s good to talk
Maintaining healthy relationships and open communication is vital to everyone’s wellbeing but when we are ill, we might not feel like talking about our illness with friends and family. Fortunately there are people available and trained to support you.
Macmillan Cancer Support can be reached on 0808 808 00 00 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and calls are free.
Cancer Research UK can also be contacted for free on 0808 800 4040. Their lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
You can also find local cancer support groups that you can visit in person here.
Finally, if you have a friend or relative with cancer but are struggling to talk to them about it, you might like the work of the artist Emily McDowell. Her empathy cards have made headlines for their ability to find words when there don’t seem to be any. You can view her work here.
At LiveInCare, we provide a dedicated online introductory service that connects you to compassionate, highly-skilled carers whose experiences include helping people to live well with cancer.