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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 during treatment will be easier if you consider the following:

  • Think of the food you eat, the exercise you get, rest/sleep and even proper care of your mouth as part of medical care. They are steps you can take to make treatments and drugs most effective. They may also help prevent a recurrence.
    • Eat better. We’d love to say “eat well” but that is likely to require a big change in most diets.  Set doable goals and take one step at a time.
    • If eating is difficult, comfort foods may be easier. 
    • When you feel well, cook up a batch of meals and freeze them.
    • Watch your weight. Do what you can to avoid losing or gaining weight.
    • Check with your doctor about what exercises you can and cannot do, and when you can do them. For example, most doctors do not recommend exercise on the day of a chemotherapy treatment.  Exercise the best you can - but don't push your limits.
    • Practice food safety with food handling, storage and cooking; when eating out. Only drink safe water.
    • Exercise to the extent permitted by your doctor.
    • If you have difficulty sleeping, practice good sleep hygiene. For instance, don't drink caffeine or exercise close to bedtime. For more information, click here
  • If you are undergoing chemotherapy:
    • Ask your doctor which vitamins or minerals may be lost because of your particular treatment.  Also check on what foods contain those nutrients.
    • Ask if you should be taking a multi-vitamin or other supplement. If so, which vitamin/supplement does the doctor recommend?
  • Make your daily schedule more manageable.
    • Prioritize your activities.  As you will see in our finance section, make sure important bills are paid.
    • Postpone the things that don't have to be done right now.
    • Ask family and friends to take over chores they can do for you.
    • Consider time and energy saving techniques.
  • Involve family and friends.
    • Think of them as part of your support team. 
    • Give significant others and friends input about your needs. Ask for help if you need it. People are not mind readers.
    • Your needs are first, but also consider theirs.
  • If you have underage children:
    • Children know when something is off. Tell them about your diagnosis in an age appropriate manner.
    • Keep a routine. 
    • Monitor their behavior. If needed, there are resources to help children cope if a parent has cancer.
    • Make one-on-one time for each child.
    • Involve your children in your care.
  • Do not give up on intimacy. Let your spouse or partner know how you feel about sex. There are other means of intimacy to explore. Ask about her or his feelings.
  • Do what you can to continue to socialize. For instance,
    • Maybe make an appearance for 20 or 30 minutes instead of staying the few hours you normally would.
    • Think ahead of time whether you want to talk about what is going on and if so, what to say. People will tend to take their cue from you about how to react to your diagnosis. Don't be afraid to let them know if you do or do not want to talk about what you are going through.
    • Understand that some people are afraid to speak to you about colorectal cancer and their reactions may be odd. 
  • If needed:
    • Help is available to go from place to place -such as to the treatment center or to the doctor's office.
    • Free help may be available to clean your home.
  • Buy, use and store drugs wisely. Carry a List of Medications with you (and something to use if nausea happens unexpectedly).
  • Keep your home clean (with help if necessary). Do what you can to make home a healing environment. (For information about healing environments, click here).
  • If you have difficulty walking, get a "handicapped" parking permit.
  • Do what you can to keep your home and work place clean and to make them into a healing environment.
  • If you have a pet, ask other people to do chores that could hurt your health. If you do not have a pet, consider getting one. Pets are good for health and longevity. A pet does not have to be a dog or cat
  • Travel is possible if properly planned.
  • Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

NOTE: Proper day to day living while under treatment includes the following subjects, each of which are discussed in other sections of this site:

To Learn More

How to Make Your Daily Schedule More Manageable

Rather than try to keep the same schedule you did before your diagnosis, it is better to slow down a little and to pace yourself.

  • Reduce your obligations.
  • Plan your day ahead of time. 
  • Put off things that do not to be done now. NOTE: This does not include:
  • Avoid unnecessary walking and steps.
  • Don’t do things that make you overly tired. If you do need to do something that will be tiring, spread it out over a period of days or weeks.
  • Ask family, friends and co-workers to take over chores they can do for you.
  • Plan rest breaks. Then actually take them and do something that you find relaxing.

Be gentle with yourself if you cannot do as many things or as quickly as you did before treatment started.

Pushing yourself to the limit is physically and emotionally exhausting.

At the same time, do not use colon or rectal cancer as an excuse to become a couch potato. Treat yourself as if you are well. Do as much as you can until you can't.

Do not beat yourself up if there are days when you can't do anything. It happens.

Watch Your Weight

During chemotherapy and radiation it is common for people to lose or gain (yes, gain) weight.

During treatment, it is preferable not to gain or lose weight. 

Focusing on your weight (as well as nutrition and exercise) can help you focus on something other than cancer.

For information about steps you can take to minimize weight loss or gain, click here

If you need help with your weight, speak with your doctor and/or a dietitian/nutritionist who has experience in helping people who are going through treatment.

Tips About Intimacy And Sex

You can have sex during treatment, though you may not feel like it. 

  • In addition to the normal fatigue and lack of interest that may be caused by your treatment, your body and self image have likely been altered due to colorectal cancer. Physical changes can affect how others react to you, which can affect your body image. Not everyone knows how to react ot people who have had cancer or who have physical changes from cancer or its treatment. Some people will react negatively, and that can cause hurt feelings and discomfort. Having a strong, positive body image may help you worry less about how other people react to your physical appearance. For tips about coping with a changing body image, see “To Learn More.”
  • If you are undergoing radiation or surgery, avoid contact with sensitive areas.
  • If you have an ostomy, click here for tips about having sex. 

Let your spouse or partner know how your feel. Ask your partner to do the same. If it is hard to talk to each other about sex or cancer, or both, consider talking with a counselor who can help the two of you communicate more openly. 

A partner's concerns or fears also can affect the sexual relationship. You and your partner can get information by talking about sexual concerns with your doctor, nurse, or a counselor who can provide information and the reassurance you and/or your partner may need.

Other forms of intimacy, such as cuddling, are a good substitute during this period of time.

Even if you are not interested in sex, it couldn’t hurt to let the other person know you still find him or her sexy.

For additional tips, see “To Learn More.”

How To Involve Family, Friends and the Non-Medical Professionals In Your Life

Your team 

Start thinking about the 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 to what degree is up to you. You do not 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 cancer or who undergo the treatment you are undergoing.

  • This information can be overwhelming and not helpful.
  • Feel free to let people know what you do or do not want them to tell you about what they may find out.
  • Check any information you do learn with your doctor.

Ask for the help 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 superwoman and try to deal with everything you did before plus deal with everything that has come up since your diagnosis.

  • There will be times when you will need help either doing everyday tasks such as grocery shopping 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.
  • You may feel tired after a treatment and need someone else to take over your chores temporarily.

Make a list and divide up the chores and responsibilities that you can't handle right now.

If you don't feel like eating your normal amount of food, or even eating at all, ask family members and friends to take turns cooking foods that you are likely to eat. Doing what you can to eat nutritiously and avoid losing weight during treatment is part of good medical care. (See “To Learn More”).

Consider appointing a person to be an “Organizer” to coordinate family and friends on your behalf. It takes away the burden and makes sure no needs fall through the cracks. It is also helpful to your team members because they can more easily say "no" when they have to.

If you need Medicaid (Medi-cal in California) and have too many assets, consider entering into a caregiver contract with a family member or friend. Such a contract is one of the legal ways of reducing your assets so you can qualify for Medicaid. See  "To Learn More."

Think about their needs as well as your own.

A diagnosis affects everyone around you. 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 about the emotions which surface because of your diagnosis and treatment. Talking keeps mole hill size difficulties from erupting in to mountain size problems.

You can let family and friends know what is happening during your treatment through web sites such as the American Cancer Society’s Circle of Sharing offsite link.

Prepare for friends’ reactions

Don’t be surprised at unexpected reactions from friends. Your treatment likely reminds them of their own mortality.

Keep in mind that their reaction has more to do with their needs than with you.

The odds are new people are entering your life triggered by your diagnosis and treatment.

More information is in our document: Disclosing Your Health Condition.

Relax family rules to fit the situation

For example:

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

Involve the non-medical professionals in your life

Tell the non-medical professionals in your life such as your lawyer, accountant and insurance person about your diagnosis and treatment. They may have suggestions about how it affects specific situations in your life and how to best deal with it.

NOTE: There are a few treatments that will require you to avoid close contact with loved ones for a short period of time. If this is something you will have to do, your doctor will tell you about it when going over treatment options. Be sure to let loved ones know what is happening before you withdraw from them.

Exercise As Much As The Doctor Allows

It has been shown that exercise helps recovery from treatments. 

  • Exercise does not have to be a hard workout at the gym. 
  •  Walking is an exercise. Brisk walking is even better. 
  • There are exercises you can do lying in bed.
  • Ask your doctor what you can and cannot do during treatment.

NOTE: Do what you reasonably can to avoid getting an infection during treatment. If you use a gym, take precautions to avoid getting an infection. See the documents in "To Learn More."

Eat Better

Researchers have found that patients who eat well during their treatment periods are better able to manage the side effects of treatment.

  • The best bet is simply a balanced diet high in a variety of plant sources, lots of whole grains, and moderate amounts of fish. For more details, consider the American Cancer Society's recommendations for cancer prevention noted below. Modify the ACS diet as recommended by your doctor for your particular situation.
  • Experience indicates that it is very difficult to change eating habits overnight. Instead, consider making changes a doable step at a time. For instance, make one meal a day a healthier meal for one week. 
    • Set goals and write them down so you don’t let changes slide. 
    • Change your goals as circumstances dictate. 
    • Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip. Make today and tomorrow better.
  • Consider consulting a dietitian/nutritionist to help tailor your diet to your specific situation and treatment.

This may be a time when you want to reach for unhealthy foods that you think of as your comfort foods - the foods that make you feel better when you're down or stressed. Keep comfort foods to a minimum  - enough to keep you able to stay with your health regimen. The longer you eat healthy foods, the less likely you'll need unhealthy comfort foods.

Ask your doctor the following questions:

  • Are there foods that would be particularly helpful for you to eat during treatment? 
  • Are there are foods or drinks to avoid.
  • Are there vitamins or minerals to start taking that will help you through treatment? If so, which ones does the doctor recommend?
  • Are there books or other sources he or she would recommend that may be helpful to read?

The American Cancer Society’s recommendations for a cancer prevention diet follow:

  • Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Pay attention to standard serving sizes
  • Eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods. Be aware that "low-fat" or "nonfat" does not mean "low-calorie" and that low-fat cakes, low-fat cookies, and other low-fat foods are often high in calories.
  • Switch to vegetables, fruits, and other low-calorie foods and beverages to replace calorie-dense foods and beverages such as French fries, cheeseburgers, pizza, ice cream, doughnuts and other sweets, and regular sodas.
  • When you eat away from home, choose food low in calories, fat, and sugar, and avoid large portion sizes.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day.
    • Include vegetables and fruits at every meal and for snacks.
    • Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
    • Limit French fries, snack chips, and other fried vegetable products.
    • Choose 100% juice if you drink vegetable or fruit juices.
    • Choose whole grains over processed (refined) grains and sugars.
    • Choose whole grain rice, bread, pasta, and cereals.
  •  Limit intake of refined carbohydrates (starches), such as pastries, sweetened cereals, and other high-sugar foods.
  •  Limit intake of processed meats and red meats.
  •  Choose fish, poultry, or beans instead of beef, pork, and lamb.
  •  When you eat meat, choose lean cuts and eat smaller portions.
    • Prepare meat by baking, broiling, or poaching, rather than by frying or charbroiling.

NOTE: Buy, store and cook foods safely. See the next section of this document

Buy, Store And Cook Food Safely. Drink Safe Water


The bacteria that cause food poisoning are difficult to detect by a food's appearance, taste or smell. Whether eating at home or eating out, there are simple steps you can take to "eat defensively" and avoid getting sick.

The guidelines, based on recommendations of the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) fall into three basic categories:

  • Guidelines for the safe purchase of food.
  • Guidelines for the safe handling, cooking and storage of food.
  • How to dine out safely.

Each of these subjects are discussed separately in the documents in "To Learn More."


Even in the U.S., water may contain bugs that can be a danger if your immune system is low - such as from chemotherapy or radiation.

Make sure your local water is safe. If it isn't, take appropriate safety precautions.

Spouses And Partners Need Your Input

Each couple's relationship is affected in unique ways by the stress of a colorectal cancer diagnosis, treatment and side effects.

With cancer in general, future plans are suddenly, unexpectedly, called into question.

Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of colorectal cancer treatment. Fatigue is difficult for couples to deal with. Fatigue often leads to role reversal. The healthy partner takes over activities and responsibilities you can't do for a while, or perhaps permanently.

The key for successfully getting through the situation is to talk - and keep talking. Cooperative problem solving and mutual support are key.

While undergoing treatment, ways of doing things need to be changed temporarily and perhaps permanently.

Intimacy and sexuality are both generally affected. Sex is not the only means of intimacy. Communicating with your significant other is required to make sure you don’t lose these important parts of your life. For information, see Sex and Intimacy.

Most people experience a change in their body image, even if there is no outward physical change. There are tips for coping with a changed body image, as well as living with an ostomy. See “To Learn More.”

It is not unusual for a relationship to have ups and downs even without treatment going on. With treatment, the changes can be intensified.  The stress of going through treatment can test a strong relationship and ultimately make it stronger. At the other extreme, it can also be the back breaking straw for a rocky relationship. Keep in mind that you may both have very different ways of coping with crisis. Use the coping skills that have gotten the two of you through in the past.

Consider whether to join a support group or self help group for couples in which one person has colorectal cancer. Sharing with others may provide valuable insight for both of you.

If it's needed, professional help is available.

See the documents in “To Learn More” for more information.

How To Consider Underage Children

Tell your children about what is going on. Use the word “cancer”.

Children will know something is happening and will likely assume it is their fault if they are not told about your cancer and its treatment.

Use the word “cancer.” Children are likely to hear it at some point. They need to hear it from you.

Tell each child in a manner that is appropriate for his or her age and personality. 

How to tell children of different ages is described in the document noted in "To Learn More." 

Keep a routine.

Keep children on a routine as close to the routine they knew before treatment.

  • Warn them if there are changes. 
  • Let them know that changes will be temporary (if they will).

Make one-on-one time.

It may be difficult to do, but spend as much one-on-one time as you can with each child.

Divvy up chores.

Give appropriate chores to underage children. It will help them feel like a part of your team and as if they are helping.

Monitor your children's behavior. 

It is likely that their reaction will show up in behavior instead of words or tears. In addition to watching for changes in behavior yourself, ask your spouse or partner to do the same. Common reactions are described in the document in "To Learn More" below.

What to do 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 school work begins to suffer or if there is a change in the child's behavior. 

Ask children to help with your care.

If children participate, they feel needed and involved. It also helps to make the process less scary for them.

When giving children chores, make sure they are chores the child can do.  Do not over burden them.

Arrange for your children's care.

Arrange for their care while undergoing treatment and during recovery as needed.

Make plans in case a child has an emergency and you are not there.

It is also prudent to make arrangements in case something happens to you and to the child's other parent. 

P.S:. If you haven’t made provisions for our children in case you die, or don't have an up-to-date will, this is a good time to take action.

  • If you have a spouse or significant other who can take care of your children you are likely set. If not, think through what you want to do. The documents in “To Learn More” may help.
  • A will does not have to be expensive. It may even be free.  
  • This is also a good time to consider keeping control of your health care if you become unable to communicate. The way to do that is through legal documents known as Advance Directives For Health Care. For instance, a Living Will is such a document. They are easy to obtain and free.

For information, see the documents in "To Learn More." 

Travel is Possible With Planning

The risk of getting sick on a trip is intensified by a lower immune system and by the fatigue that can come with treatment. 

You can travel safely during chemo or radiation treatment if your doctor permits travel.

A good trip starts with planning - which starts with a discussion with your doctor about what you can and cannot do, and places you should avoid.

Airlines, trains and boats legally have to accommodate special needs. Let them know what your needs are ahead of time.

Watch what you eat and drink while traveling, even in the United States - especially in third world countries.

Get travel insurance in case you end up not being able to go or have to abort the trip for health reasons. Look for a policy that does not have an exclusion for pre-existing health conditions. As a general matter, such policies have to be purchased within a short period of time after booking the trip in order to avoid a pre-existing condition exclusion.

Getting From Place To Place


  • Check each of the medications you take to find out whether it is okay to drive while taking them. 
    • Check drug interactions as well as the characteristics of each drug. A combination may make driving hazardous.
    • If you have a question, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

If you are having difficulty walking:

  • You may be able to get a temporary disability parking sticker allowing you to park close to your destination. In most states, it is easy to apply for and receive a Handicapped parking permit  which allows you to park close to entrances.
  • In most areas, you do not need to be a driver or a registered owner of a vehicle to get a permit.
  • Contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles to determine:
    • Eligibility requirements
    • What you need to verify eligibility (such as a letter from your doctor)
    • How often you have to prove eligibility or otherwise renew the permit
    • The cost of the permit.
  • You can find contact information for your state's Department of Motor Vehicles at offsite link

NOTE: If you do not appear to be physically handicapped, prepare an answer in case an obnoxious person questions why you park in a Handicapped parking space when you look healthy.

If you are having difficulty driving:

  • See if family members, friends and/or neighbors can help.
  • Check with the American Cancer Society to see if their volunteers are available. The more notice, the more likely American Cancer Society can find you a ride. Call 800.ACS.2345

Public Transportation   

  •  There may be public transportation available including transportation that picks you up at your door and takes you to your destination. For more information, see the document in "To Learn More." 

To Learn More

Carry A List of Medications And Vomit Bag "Just In Case"

List of Medications

As you will see in Survivorship A to Z information about medical care, (link to medical care in treatment) for colorectal  cancer) it is advisable to carry a list of your medications with you at all time. “Shit happens” and we never know when that will be.

Emergency personnel need to know about your diagnosis, treatment and the drugs you are taking.

Survivorship A to Z provides a List you can keep to date and print as needed. Click here.


It is not unusual for people to regurgitate (vomit) during treatment. The need can come on quite unexpectedly.

In addition to drugs and other techniques described in the document in “To Learn More”, carry a vomit bag with you 24/7 “just in case.”.  A gallon size plastic baggie will do. If you want more elegant solutions, consider the following ideas:

Get Help To Keep Your Home Clean. Make A Healing Environment

Get help if needed to keep your home clean.

Consider what arrangements, if any, need to be made at home because of your treatment. For instance, sometimes chemotherapy makes it difficult to take care of the house or possibly yourself.

Home care is available – and may even be paid for by your health insurance.

House cleaning is available for a limited number of people who are in treatment for cancer through an organization known as Cleaning For A Reason. To learn more, and to apply, see: offsite link. Members of your church or social organization may also provide help.

Before you have outside help come into your home, put away all valuables, credit cards, checks and cash even if the person comes from an agency with an honesty bond. Money doesn’t replace family heirlooms.

Do what you reasonably can to make your home into a healing environment.

The environment in which you live can affect your emotions and your health. 

Look around you. Is your home environment peaceful and conducive to healing and healthy life? 

If the environment is not healing, do what you can to change it. For instance, remove toxic substances which affect the air. Repaint walls to restful colors. If this is too much effort now, keep it in mind once things settle down after treatment.

If the environment is unsafe for your health, do what you can to eliminate the risk.

For more information on these subjects, see "To Learn More."


Pets help emotional and physical health.

If You Have A Pet

As good as pets can be for you, they can also be dangerous to your health while you are in treatment and have a lowered immune system. 

Ask someone else to take over the chores that could be risky for you. For instance, if you have a cat, ask someone else to change the litter box.

Learn about the dangers, if any, from your pet and how to minimize them. See the document in "To Learn More."

If You Do Not Have A Pet

Consider getting one. It doesn't have to be a dog or a cat to have beneficial effects on your mental and physical health.

For more information about pets and your health, see the document in "To Learn More."

To Learn More

More Information

Pets 101

Do What You Need To Do To Take Care Of Yourself

In addition to eating well, exercising and getting rest, take care of your other needs.

For example, if you need alone time, take it.  Do not use the need for alone time as an excuse not to spend time with family and friends, or to socialize.

If you need to splurge a little, and you can do it without breaking the bank. do it.

If you don't want to do a chore today, and it's not critical, it is okay to put it off.

  • Don't put chores off to the point where they become a problem. 
  • Don't put off paying your bills and other important tasks. If money is tight, see: Financial Crunch And How To Deal With It
  • If you need help doing chores while undergoing treatment, ask for it.  You can even hire a professional if necessary.