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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


Day-to-day living is a catch-all for those parts of your life affected by a colorectal cancer diagnosis that are not treated in specific subjects such as Managing Your Medical Care.

For Information about each of the following subjects, see the other sections of this document.

  • Think about family and friends as part of your health care team.
  • Decide who to tell about your condition, and what to tell them.
  • Hold off telling co-workers or a boss except as necessary in order to get the time needed for tests and to explore treatment options. As you will see in our work documents, a boss is likely to have to keep the information confidential. Co-workers are not subject to the same restriction.
  • Start making plans for your needs during treatment. For example, who will:
    • take over house chores?
    • Take the kids to school?
    • Do the shopping?
  • If you will be undergoing chemotherapy with Camptosar, there is a possibility you may lose your hair:
    • Consider buying a wig now or at least saving a hair sample in case you want to buy a wig later.
    • Consider cutting your hair off rather than waiting for it to fall out.
    • For information about Hair Loss From Treatment And How To Deal With It, click here.  For information about wigs, click here.
  • Learn to purchase, use, store and dispose of drugs wisely.
    • The way you have been buying and using drugs may not be the best way.
    • Free drugs may be available if you do not have the resources to pay for them.
  • Realize that drugs and treatments do not work in a vacuum.
    • Start to think of the food you eat, the exercise you get, your rest/sleep, stress reduction, and even proper care of your mouth as steps you can take to make treatments and drugs most effective.
    • Adopt a healthy lifestyle such as a cancer preventive lifestyle.
  • Do what you can to avoid unnecessary infections. For information, click here.
  • Check travel plans with your cancer doctor. For example, where to go, how you get there, activities at each destination.
    • It takes time to plan a trip properly, but it is well worth it.
    • Once at your destination, take appropriate precautions.
    • For information about all aspects, click here.
  • Medical tourism is traveling to get less expensive or better medical care. For information, click here.
  • Don't obsess about what other people think. If you have difficulty with your changed body image, click here.
  • Keep in mind that sex is not the only to achieve intimacy. To learn more, click here.
  • If you are single, continue dating. Think about when to tell about your diagnosis. Click here.
  • If you feel fatigued, there are techniques to help get through the day. For example, schedule activities for the time of day you usually feel better. For more information, click here.
  • Don't let emotions keep you from doing the daily things you have to do or that normally make you feel good such as a hobby or sport. For information about emotions and feelings that come up and how to deal with them, click here.
  • Relax self imposed rules such as no eating on paper plates that won't affect you in the long term when you're not feeling well.
  • Learn about local resources that may be available to you.

Decide Who To Tell About Your Condition, When, And How Much To Share

he decision whether to tell people about your colorectal cancer, and if so, what to tell them, is purely a personal one. There is no right and wrong.

Think about what you want to do before moving forward. Once you tell someone, you can't take it back. As they say: "The cat's out of the bag."

As a general matter, whether to tell people, when to tell them, and what to tell, depends on the situation and why you are thinking of disclosing the information.

The following situations give rise to this question. What you decide to do may vary in each situation. The situations to consider are:

  • Family, friends and acquaintances
  • Children
  • The professionals in your life
  • Work
  • Dating

In each situation, consider:

  • The pros and cons of telling.
  • Decide what to tell.
  • Prepare for unexpected reactions.

The articles in "To Learn More" provide information and tips about each of the above situations.

Before telling the first loved one, it may be useful to call a hotline such as the Colon Cancer Alliance helpline at 877.422.2030. Rehearse by saying the words "I have colon/rectal cancer." Your response to saying the words for the first time may surprise you.

Perhaps the first person to tell is the person close to you who you most expect to respond in a helpful way. Keep in mind that you can always tell other people as the situation clarifies and you learn more about your condition and make a treatment decision.

If you have children:

  • All the literature suggests telling children who live with you. They'll know something is wrong. If you don't tell them what is happening, they will assume that it is their fault.
  • Having a first degree relative with colorectal cancer puts children in a higher risk category for this disease. If they have knowledge of family history with respect to this disease, they are more likely to help prevent it by eating well and exercising, and getting colonscopies starting at an early age.

Tell your insurance broker, lawyer, accountant and other non-medical professionals in your life about your diagnosis. They may have suggestions about how it affects specific situations you face and how to best deal with them. (For information about finances, including techniques for dealing with a financial crunch, click here).

Information about telling at work is included in our document about work.

We strongly encourage telling unless there is an overriding reason not to.

  • Keeping a secret is stressful. The greater the secret, the greater the stress.
  • Stress hurts the immune system.
  • The immune system is needed to help your body function at its best disease fighting capacity.
  • Telling people gives meaning to your diagnosis. You can’t change a diagnosis, but you can help other people by encouraging them to get screened. Early screening helps prevent colorectal disease.

NOTE: An easy way to keep family and friends up-to-date about what you learn about your colorectal cancer and how you are doing is via the internet. For instance, American Cancer Society has a free "Circle of Sharing offsite link" as does CaringBridge offsite link. For additional sources for keeping people to date, click here.

Think Of Family And Friends As Part Of Your Health Care Team. Ask Them For Help When You Need It.

Your Team

Think of the appropriate people around you as part of your team, just as doctors and other professionals are part of your team. Each member can provide his or her knowledge, advice and support.

Who is actually involved with you and your health care, and to what degree, is up to you.

You don't have to accept help just because it is offered.

Likewise, you can set limits on peoples' participation in your experience. For example, only spend time with people who are positive and supportive.

Expect that people will let you know when they hear stories about other people with your type of cancer or who have undergone the treatment you decide to take.

  • This information can be overwhelming and not helpful.
  • Feel free to let people know what you do or do not want them to pass on to you.
  • Check any information you do learn with your doctor.

Do not be surprised if some people tend to stay away from you because they don't know what to say or do. Some people may have the irrational notion that cancer is catching. Other people may not want to face thoughts about their own mortality.

Ask For The Help That You Need

Do not wait to ask for help until the burden gets too great or you reach a breaking point. You don't need to be Superman or Wonder Woman and try to deal with everything you did before your diagnosis as well as everything that comes along with a diagnosis. There will be times when you will need help either doing everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, child care, or matters directly related to your health such as bathing, accompanying you to doctor appointments or acting as a patient advocate if you enter a hospital.

Make a list of your chores and responsibilities that you may not be able to handle once treatment starts. Divide them up among your team.

Consider appointing a family member or friend to be an organizer to coordinate family and friends for you. It takes away the burden of doing it yourself. It also helps assure that things don't fall through the cracks. An organizer is also helpful to your other team members because they can more easily say "no" when they have to without fear of offending you.

There are websites with free calendars you can use where people can sign up for meals, driving you to and from medical appointments, cleaning house, etc. For example, offsite linkFriends can organize meals through such websites as MealTrain offsite link where you can also list foods you do and do not like.

Entering into a caregiver contract with a family member or friend can help you qualify for Medicaid (Medi-cal in California) if you have too many assets. Such a contract is a legal way of reducing your assets. Survivorship A to Z has a document concerning Caregiver Contracts noted in "To Learn More."

Ask Someone To Go With You To Important Medical Meetings. Take A Recorder.

It is helpful to have a family member or friend attend all important meetings with doctors (a "Patient Advocate"). Until treatment starts, that is basically every meeting with a doctor. Such a person can help in a batch of ways. For instance, help asking questions, help recalling what was said, and help to relieve anxiety.

We strongly encourage you to also take a digital or tape recorder to each session so you can listen more closely to what the doctor said in the comfort of your own home without the stress of being in a medical setting. Get the doctor's consent before using the recorder. There are additional tips like this in Survivorship A to Z's document about maximizing your limited time with a doctor. See "To Learn More."

Think About Their Needs As Well As Your Own

A diagnosis affects everyone around you. It is even said that a diagnosis of cancer is a diagnosis of the entire family.

Your needs come first, but theirs should not be ignored.

Just as you need to share your emotions, they should keep talking with one another. Talking keeps mole hill size difficulties from erupting in to mountain size problems.

Encourage your partner to join a support group of caregivers, for instance at Colon Cancer Alliance’s My CRC Connections ( offsite link)

If you are part of a same sex couple, and your partner cannot tell his or her boss or coworkers about your health situation, your partner will feel more alone and isolated than if your health could be talked about. Your partner will likely not be offered the kind of flexibility that benefits many spouses. Talking about the tension will help. (Perhaps your partner can find support and find tips by talking with someone else who has experienced a similar situation).

Relax Family Rules To Fit The Situation

For example:

  • Meals could be eaten on paper plates with throw away plastic utensils.
  • Chores that don't need to be done right away can be postponed.

There Is No Reason To Be In Pain

There are many treatments for pain including traditional medicine, massage therapy, meditation, and other so-called complementary treatments.

Speak with your primary care doctor or cancer doctor once one is on board.

If pain is not treated to your satisfaction, seek the advice of a doctor who specializes in treating pain.

To learn more, see the document in "To Learn More."

To Learn More

More Information

Pain 101

If You Have Underage Children

Tell Your Children About Your Diagnosis

Children will know something is happening and will likely assume it is their fault if they are not told.

Use the word "cancer." If you do not use the word, and they hear it from someone else, they may lose trust in you.

Tell each child in a manner that is appropriate for his or her age and personality. Use drawings or dolls if that would be helpful. How to tell children of different ages is described in the article noted in "To Learn More."

Keep A Routine

Be sure children have a routine, and that they feel cared for.

Spend Close One On One Time With Each Child

Kids may have a hard time articulating their fears and just feel better being close to you.  Curl up with a blanket on the couch and watch a movie together, allow them to bring a pad or mattress into your room to sleep beside you if that helps them.  No words have to be spoken – they just feel better being with you.

Monitor Your Children's Behavior

It is likely that their reaction will show up in behavior instead of words or tears. Common reactions are described in the document in "To Learn More."

If Your Children Are In School

Make your child's school aware of what is going on.

Ask to be contacted if your child's schoolwork begins to suffer or if there is a change in the child's behavior.

Arrange For Their Care.

It is never too soon to start arranging for a child's temporary care during your treatment.

It also prudent to make arrangements in case you become unable to care for the child on a long term basis, or if you die. We are not talking specifically about your diagnosis. Life is fragile and there is no certainty for any of us.

Start Children On A Cancer Prevention Diet And Lifestyle

Depending on the type of colorectal cancer you have, your children may be at risk in coming years. Your doctor can tell you whether they are at risk -- and, if so, when and how often to get them screened.

In the meantime, start feeding your children a cancer preventive diet, make sure they exercise at least 30 minutes a day, and get proper rest. More than 70% of colorectal cancers are caused by diet. Please do not take this to mean that you caused your cancer or to start beating yourself up. What was -- was. Deal with what is and what you can do about it. And yes, expect that in other sections of this document we encourage you to start adopting this diet and lifestyle yourself. It's one of the things you can do to help change the future.

Learn About Local Resources

There are many local resources throughout the country to help people with cancer in general, and colorectal cancer in particular.

Ask your cancer doctor's team, the social worker at the local hospital, and other people in the area who have had colorectal cancer.

Also check with Colon Cancer Alliance at 877.422.4030 and the American Cancer Society's list of resources by calling 800.ACS.2345.

Once A Treatment Decision Is Made, Prepare For Your Upcoming Needs

  • Your daily life will be affected because of your treatment. You may feel sick or tired. 
    • Talk with your doctor or the doctor's nurse about what to anticipate.
    • It may also be helpful to speak with someone who has gone through the treatment you have agreed to. The Colon Cancer Alliance helpline (877.422.4030), your doctor, his or her staff, or a social worker at a treatment center can help you make contact.
  • Ask your doctor, your doctor's staff, or treatment center about help with transportation to and from treatment. American Cancer Society has volunteers to help. Call 800. ACS.2345.
  • Learn how to maximize your limited time with a doctor. (See the document in “To Learn More.”)
  • Start lining up family and friends to take over the household chores and other functions you may not be able to do. 
    • If it turns out you can do them, you can thank people for their consideration.
    • Free house cleaning may be available during treatment through a non-profit known as Cleaning For A Reason. If you may need a cleaning service, start the process now. It takes about 2 weeks to process an application, and only a limited number of applications are accepted per day. offsite link
  • Stock up on easy to cook and easy to eat food.
  • Think about who will take care of your children while you are in treatment and during any recovery period(s). 
  • Be sure there is someone to pay bills in case you don't feel well enough to attend to them. This is not the time for your health insurance to be cancelled for lack of payment, or for your mortgage to go into default or to be behind in your rent if you can avoid it. (If no family members or friends are available, you can hire a professional). For more information about finances, see: Finances.

Adopt A Cancer Prevention Diet And Lifestyle

The discussion about a Cancer Prevention Diet and Lifestyle is in the Managing Your Medical Care documents because:

  • The two are so closely intertwined.

  • To help reinforce the reality that it is helpful to think of food, exercise and rest as part of your medical regimen.

To learn more, click here.

Learn To Be An Informed Medications Consumer

All medicines (drugs) have benefits and risks. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, minerals and supplements.

To be a smart, informed drug consumer, take the following steps:

  • Decide on your objectives before agreeing to take a drug. For example, do you need to be alert for work? If so, look for a drug that doesn't make you sleepy during the day.
  • Only take a drug with "Informed Consent." Basically this means understanding:
    • What the drug is supposed to do
    • The risks that may be involved
    • The alternatives
    • The potential side effects
    • How to take the drug appropriately.
  • Do your part to avoid errors. For example:
    • Ask the pharmacist to check for negative interactions with any other drug you take.
    • Look at the actual drug the pharmacist gives you. Make sure they look the same as your last batch. If they don't - ask why.
  • Avoid overmedication. Overmedication can cause unnecessary side effects.
  • If there is a choice between a newer and older drug, remember that the longer a drug is on the market, the more experience we have with it. Experience becomes the ultimate proof about the benefits and risks of a drug.
  • Always carry a list of your medicines with you in case of emergency and for each doctor's appointment. (Survivorship A to Z provides a List. See "To Learn More.")
  • Buy drugs in the place that is best for you. It may not be the pharmacy that is closest to your residence or work.
  • When cost is an issue, there are ways to save money.
  • You may be able to get the drugs you need even if you can't afford them. For instance, through a program of the manufacturer or through samples from your doctor.
  • Live with your drugs wisely. For instance, don't store them in the bathroom. Dispose of unused drugs appropriately.

Always keep in mind that you have the right to determine whether you will take a drug, and if so, which one(s).

NOTE: If you take a drug long term, ask your doctor whether you should be taking supplements because of the drug. Long term use of some drugs can interfere with your body's ability to absorb and metabolize nutrients.

Check Travel Plans With Your Cancer Doctor. Plan Ahead.

The odds are you can still travel.

  • Check with your cancer doctor before you travel. Check timing, destination, how you will travel, activities at your destination, and what to do if you experience an emergency.
  • Get travel insurance that does not have a pre-existing condition exclusion.
  • If you have special travel needs, arrange for them ahead of time.
  • Do what you can to minimize risk of infection by washing your hands often. Carry Purell or other anti-bacteria wipes – and use them!
  • Once at your destination, take appropriate precautions. For instance, check to be sure that the water is safe to drink and not likely to cause infection.

For more information about traveling safely after a diagnosis, see the document in "To Learn More."

To Learn More

More Information

Travel 101