You are here: Home Managing Your ... In Treatment For ... Summary
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.


There is no way to predict the experience of any individual during treatment. We are all unique.

No matter what treatment you undergo, there is likely to be some degree of pain or other unpleasant side effects. With a treatment such as surgery, the side effects may be immediate and decrease over time. With other treatments, there may be no side effects to start, but they may accumulate. Some may linger after treatment ends.

Side effects are a price for regaining health or at least minimizing the effects of cancer. Most people would say the price is small compared to the potential reward.

If things seem bleak at any given point, keep in mind that there is no such thing as false hope. At least one person survives every illness. That person could just as easily be you as someone else.

Do what you can to keep a positive attitude. It helps to know what to expect during a treatment, including potential side effects. Your cancer doctor can tell you about the side effects that usually accompany your treatment.

Report all unexpected side effects or side effects which are more severe than expected to your cancer doctor. Side effects can be minimized, and in some cases, eliminated entirely. (Also keep your primary doctor informed about your treatment and side effects. While it may be the last thing you want to hear, other things may be happening in your body at the same time that wouldn't be noticed by your cancer doctor.)

Pain does not have to be part of a health condition. If you have pain, speak with your doctor about alternatives for getting rid of it, or at least decreasing how much it hurts. There are even doctors (known as Palliative Care Doctors) who specialize in treating pain. You can receive palliative care at the same time as you work to cure your condition.

Treat yourself as if you are well and do as much as you can until you can't. For example, you can still travel unless your doctor specifically advises you not to. You may have to prepare more for travel more than you are used to in order to assure a safe, pleasant trip (well, okay, as pleasant as travel can be these days).

Don't beat yourself up if there are days when you can't do anything.

Eat nutritious meals when you can. If eating is difficult, comfort foods may be easier. Find out from your doctor what vitamins or minerals may be needed to balance vitamins and minerals that may be lost because of your treatment.

Be active. Exercise. It has been shown that exercise helps recovery from treatments. Exercise doesn't have to be a hard workout at the gym. Ask your doctor what you can and cannot do.

If you undergo chemotherapy:

  • Don't be surprised if you have a metallic or other taste in your mouth, or your taste buds change. You have to eat to keep up your strength to do your part in the treatment. There are recipes to suit your needs.
  • Check the local water supply to be sure it is safe for people with a lowered immune system. If it isn't, filter the water, boil it or drink bottled water. (And don't brush your teeth with it either.)
  • Do what you can to reduce risk of infection. For example, wash your hands regularly and keep them away from your face.
  • Learn when to call your doctor. For example, in general, if you get a fever of 100.5 or higher. If your platelets are low, if there is unexpected bruising.

Consider adding "complementary" or "alternative" treatments such as massage therapy to your treatment schedule.

Understand that decisions and recommendations may change as facts change. A change does not mean that the original treatment was wrong. Medicine is a combination of science and art.

Think about family and friends as part of your health care team. If you need help, ask for it. Keep in mind that a diagnosis also affects them. If you have underage children, tell them about your diagnosis in an age appropriate manner. Give them tasks to do so they feel as if they are helping.

Buy, use and store drugs wisely.

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, and even proper care of your mouth as steps you can take to make treatments and drugs most effective.

Share your emotions. Watch for depression. Consider seeking counseling if you're getting stuck in a down mode or feeling overwhelmed. 

Speak with other people who are going through what you are.

Keep track of side effects so that you can report to the doctor accurately when you see each other. Also keep track of questions to ask. Survivorship A to Z provides a Symptoms Diary to help you keep track of symptoms.(The click of a button turns the entries into a chart for a quick overview for your health care provider.) We also provide a prioritizer which lets you keep track of your questions, and then lets you prioritize them with a push of a button before you go to the doctor.

Keep up your finance basics. Pay your rent or mortgage and minimums on your credit card. Pay your health insurance premium. Start keeping track of all medical services you receive and expenses you pay. You may be able to deduct them from your taxes. Don't pay a medical bill just because you receive one.

Do what you can financially to get through treatment. If you have health insurance, learn how to maximize your policy. If you don't have health insurance, you can still get treatment. See Survivorship A to Z information in To Learn More about being Uninsured.

Postpone important non-medical decisions until after treatment. Treatment creates stress as well as brings up emotions which can cloud judgment. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, you may also get what is known as chemo brain - basically a fogginess.

If you have a money crunch or face one, there are new uses of assets as well as other techniques to consider. Survivorship A to Z provides information about dealing with a crunch and dealing with creditors, as well as financial planning information and tools for a person with cancer. Use them now if you have to. Otherwise postpone planning until after treatment ends - unless planning would help you feel more in control of your life. (We even tell you how to borrow money from family and friends if necessary.)

Make arrangements at work to enable you to do your work and take your treatments, or to take off whatever time is necessary if you need to be out of work full time. Even if you are entitled to an accommodation or time off under the law, it is advisable to think of your request for an accommodation or time as a negotiation. As in any negotiation, balance your needs and those of your employer. If you need additional paid time off, perhaps you can borow it from a co-worker.

If you are a business owner or are self employed, take the necessary steps to keep your business running. Survivorship A to Z provides a planning framework.

If needed, free transportation is available to get to treatments or doctor visits through the American Cancer Society. (Telephone 800.ACS.2345). Travel costs may be a tax deductible medical expense.

You may not be up to having sex or dating. If so, let the other person know. 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 give you the information and the reassurance you and/or your partner may need. You and your partner also should try to share your feelings with one another. If it is hard for you to talk to each other about sex or cancer, or both, you may want to talk with a counselor who can help you communicate more openly.

Home care is available for many situations that used to require hospitalization. Speaking of home, look around you. Is your home environment peaceful and conducive to healing and healthy life? If not, do what you can to change it. For instance, repaint walls to restful colors. If this is too much effort now, keep it in mind once things settle down after treatment. The environment in which you live can affect your emotions. If it is unsafe, do what you can to eliminate the risk.

NOTE: When treatment ends, consider doing the following:

  • Read Survivorship A to Z information about Post Treatment
  • Celebrate. Include all of your family and friends who have helped you through. Consider making it a small celebration. Save the big one for being told your cancer is gone.

You can travel safely during treatment if your doctor permits travel.

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

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. For information, see: Travel Insurance Post Diagnosis.

Don't let emotions bottle up inside.

Talk about emotions that surface with family and friends.
  • When considering who to talk with, think about the same factors you used when you decided who to tell about your diagnosis and how much to tell each person.
  • Look for positive people to talk with. Avoid upsetting discussions with people who have a negative attitude. You don't have to talk in depth with a person just because he or she wants you to.
  • Family and friends are members of your team. They want to help.

Talk with at least one other person going through treatment.

  • It helps to speak with someone with whom you can speak in the short hand of common experience.
  • You may learn a few practical tips - or share those you've learned. (It would also be helpful to share them with us so we can share them with other people going through what you are).
  • Your doctor, his or her staff, your cancer treatment center or local cancer organization can make introductions. Expect that a medical professional will honor patients' privacy by asking the other person for permission to divulge his or her name and contact information before giving it to you.)

Consider joining a support group.

  • There are all kinds of groups, including groups of people who are in treatment.
  • Groups meet in person, on the telephone, and on line, so there is likely to be at least one available group that works for you.
  • One of the advantages of a support group is that you can learn practical tips from other people in a support group.

Look for other means of expression such as writing or any form of art.

How To Live With Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs (chemicals) to treat your cancer.

There are many different types of chemotherapy. Among other factors, the type of cancer you have and the stage will help determine the chemotherapy that may be used to eliminate your cancer.

Several chemotherapies may be used in combination. If one combination doesn't appear to be effective, the combination may be changed.

Chemotherapy may be given in several courses. The end of the first course gives the doctor an opportunity to see how well the drug worked. The doctor can then use the same drug, another drug or a combination of drugs in other courses.

There are different side effects which accompany different chemotherapies. Each side effect can either be eliminated or at least reduced in severity. Tips for living with chemotherapy are described in the article in "To Learn More."

  • Do not expect immediate results. Standard practice is to wait for 2 full cycles of treatment before looking for any response to it. This usually takes about 2 to 3 months. Response is checked by repeating the tests that show the cancer.
  • Do not take vitamins, minerals, herbs,antioxidants or other dietary supplements without first asking your doctor, nurse or dietitian whether it is okay. Some of these substances can be harmful. Some may reduce the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
  • If medical personnel suggest or allow you take vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants or other dietary supplements, do not take more than is recommended without first checking with medical personnel. 

It is better not to become pregnant while receiving chemotherapy. If you do become pregnant, tell your doctor right away.

Cancer Surgery 101

Surgery can be scary when you take into account stories of surgeons leaving equipment before closing a patient's incision or people getting disease resistant infections in a hospital and losing a leg. The reason you hear about these stories is because they are the exception, not the rule. You can help assure that your surgery and recovery go well by considering the following:

  • Learn about your surgical procedure
    • What will the surgeon do?
    • Why is the surgery proposed?
    • What will the side effects of the surgery be?
  • Learn what you should do or not do before surgery. For instance:
    • Foods to eat -- or avoid.
    • Vitamins, minerals or other supplements to take - or avoid.
    • Exercise to help build your body. When asking about exercise, it may help to use the word "prehab" with your health care provider. One way to look at prehab is as armor to help the mind and body prepare for the coming battle.
    • Drugs to stop taking - such as anti-inflammatory drugs.
    • Ask whether you will need to be given blood during the surgery ("transfused.") If so, you can give your own blood ahead of time. You can also ask family and friends to donate and specify that the donation is for you. This is known as "directed donation." Directed donation saves money and adds further asurance to the safety of the blood you may be given duing surgery. This is known as a "belt and suspenders" approach to our already safe blood supply. 
    • Tests you need to take. You may need standard surgery tests in addition to the cancer tests you already took. The doctor will let you know whether the tests may be performed ahead of time or the day of the surgery. Common tests include: Blood tests, Electrocardiogram (EKG) to evaluate your heart, and a Chest X ray to check lungs
  • Think about what you would want to happen medically if you need medical care and become unable to speak for yourself. You will be asked by the hospital admissions person whether you have a Living Will and other advance directives which cover these issues. If not, you will be offered the form the hospital uses. Completing advance directives doesn't mean that they will be needed. However, they do let you stay in control if the unexpected happens.
  • Learn how to stay safe and be comfortable in the hospital. Among other steps to take, even in world class hospitals, it is helpful to have a family member or friend stay with you as much as possible to act as a patient advocate. While you're at it, Survivorship A to Z also has information on how to save money in a hospital and how to make your room feel more friendly.
  • Plan ahead for your needs when you are discharged from the hospital. For example, if you will need home care, start putting away valuable items, credit cards and cash. If you will need a hospital bed or other equipment, how will you get it and where will you put it?

NOTE: When you are discharged from the hospital, it is advisable to do the following:

  • Check your bill, even if you have insurance. A large percentage of hospital bills have errors which are usually in the hospital's favor.
  • Get a discharge plan that tells you what was done in the hospital and what you should be doing and not doing during recovery - as well as a date for a follow up visit with your surgeon and perhaps other doctors.


Radiation 101

Radiation is the use of high-energy rays to damage cancer cells. The rays stop the cancer cells from growing and multiplying.

Radiation is a local treatment like surgery that only affects cancer cells in the treated area.

Radiation can come from a machine (called external radiation) or from a small container of radioactive material which is implanted directly into or near the tumor site (called internal radiation).  The implant may be temporary or permanent.

External radiation therapy is usually given on an outpatient basis in a hospital or clinic. Internal radiation usually requires hospitalization for a few days.

Patients are not radioactive during or after the treatment.

Radiation is generally painless when given, though the area may become tender and sore.
Fatigue that frequently accompanies radiation often comes on toward the end of treatment and may linger for weeks afterward.

To learn about the other potential side effects of radiation to different areas of the body, see The National Cancer Institute chart at: offsite link

To learn what to expect during a radiation treatment, see the Survivorship A to Z article of the same name in "To Learn More."


  • While receiving radiation treatments, do not take vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants or other supplements without first asking your doctor, nurse or dietitian whether it is okay. Some of these substances can be harmful. Some may reduce the effectiveness of the radiation therapy.
  • If medical personnel suggest or allow you take vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants or other supplements, do not take more than is recommended without first checking with medical personnel. 
  • If you want to become pregnant, check with your doctor first.  If you unexpectedly do become pregnant, tell your radiologist right away.

Bone Marrow Transplants

Information to be added.

Other Cancer Treatments

Content to be added.

Keep track of your symptoms. If symptoms are more severe than expected, or if unexpected symptoms appear, call your doctor.

At every appointment, your doctor will likely ask about how you have been since the last appointment. It's difficult to remember, especially if pain or fatigue is involved.

You can easily keep track of your symptoms in our Survivorship A to Z Symptoms Diary. When you are ready to go to the doctor, a push of a button can turn the chart into an easy-to-read graph which you can print and take with you. A graph can be read by the doctor in seconds, leaving more time for your questions and concerns.

Consider the practical aspects of being in treatment.

Thinking through the practical aspects of your treatment will help prevent trying to catch up on things you could have taken care of when you were feeling better. For instance:
  • If you are going to have chemotherapy or radiation:
    • Think about how you are going to get to and from appointments. If needed, American Cancer Society can help arrange transportation. Call 800.ACS.2345
    • What changes should you start making in your diet to build your body with nutrients that the treatment may diminish?
  • Think about who will take care of your children while you are in treatment and during any recovery period(s).
  • What changes will be needed at work to accommodate the treatment schedule?
  • What arrangements need to be made at home? Many situations that used to require hospitalization can now be arranged at home thanks to visiting nurses, doctors who make house calls and home health aides. There are pros and cons for hiring health aides on your own or through an agency. In any event, learn tips such as putting all valuables, credit cards, checks and cash away before aides arrive.
  • How will bills be paid if you aren't feeling 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. (Family members or friends can pay bills for you. If none are available, you can hire a professional.)
  • If you are going to have surgery, learn how to choose a hospital, how to maximize your time in the hospital and how to avoid infection. Also find out what you should and should not be doing prior to surgery.

Reduce your risk of infection while in treatment

While undergoing cancer therapy, your immune system is lower than normal, which means that you are more prone to getting infections and that you have less resistance with which to fight an infection.

Simple steps help avoid unnecessary infection. For example:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and warm water. 
    • Wash for at least 20 seconds. 
    • An aide to keeping track of time is to sing Happy Birthday at regular tempo. It takes about 20 seconds.  
  • Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes at all times. They are the entry point for germs into your system.
  • Use caution when buying, storing and cooking foods. 
  • Eat out wisely.
    • Only eat in places you believe follow food safety guidelines.
    • The need to eat nutritiously doesn't go away because you are eating out instead of at home. 
  • Wash your hands when you are about to leave a public places such as a gym, or as soon after leaving as you can. 
  • Take appropriate precautions in a hospital.  For instance, do not let anyone touch you who does not wash his or her hands first.
  • Avoid:
    • Crowds
    • People who have diseases you can catch
    • People evidencing symptoms of diseases you can catch

Consider adding non-Western treatments ("complementary" or "alternative" treatments) such as massage therapy to your treatment schedule.

So called "alternative" or "complimentary" treatments can make you feel better, help you cope with treatment, and together with traditional medicine may work on your cancer.

They should only be considered in addition to medical treatment - not as a replacement.

For information about each subject therapy and what medical evidence indicates with respect to cancer, see American Cancer Society Complete Guide To Complementary & Alternative Cancer Therapies $24.95 including shipping. ( offsite link).

Discuss any complementary treatments you are considering with your doctor before starting them.

Emotions may run rampant during treatment. Use time tested techniques to help. Take one day at a time. It's not unusual to see life with a different sense of perspective.

Don't be surprised at the rush of emotions. You may feel numb, confused, shocked, angry, depressed, scared, guilty, and a host of other emotions. Actually, you may experience several emotions at the same time.

There are techniques which can help you cope with emotions that appear. They are described in the articles listed in "To Learn MOre."


  • You don't have to live with pain, or other difficult side effects of your condition, drugs or treatment. There are remedies available. Talk with your doctor.
  • Don't be surprised if you have difficulty absorbing information. Take the time you need. It can help to tell a trusted person what you think you've learned. Telling will help pin point the gaps. It's perfectly reasonable to return to the source of information and ask that it be explained again, or in a different way.

Share your emotions. Watch for depression. Consider seeking counseling. You may also want to consider getting a pet if you don't have one (yes, a pet).

Let the people closest to you know what you are experiencing, including about stress and fear. Talking helps.

As we've already seen, your emotions may be all over the place due to the stress of dealing with the issues at hand as well as the unknown. Do what you can to relieve the stress. For example:

  • Define your fears. If you define your fears specifically, you can come up with solutions to each of them so that so you don't feel so powerless and overwhelmed by them. 
  • Eat foods that are comfort food for you, even if they're not the healthiest. (Of course, don't make them the only fod you eat.)
  • Start doing things to make you feel in control or that help you feel centered. For instance, think of a small project you can start and finish quickly.

Waiting for test results can be agonizing. There are time tested ideas that can help you get through this period. For instance:

  • Keep busy.
  • Take advantage of your support systems.
  • If you need help sleeping, get it.
  • Use relaxation techniques.
  • Exercise. 

If you get stuck in a down mode:

  • Talk with your doctor. He or she may prescribe anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. AND
  • Join a support group.
  • Consider seeking professional counseling. Counseling is for anyone who wants to sort out what they're feeling. Counseling is usually done in person. If that is not possible, you can arrange for therapy on the telephone, or even on line. If your insurance doesn't pay for counseling, many therapists work on a sliding scale and charge according to your means.

Consider getting a pet. Pets are not a substitute for communicating with other people in a similar situation, support groups or therapists. However, they are good for emotional health and have been shown to increase longevity. The pet doesn't have to be a dog or a cat, and it doesn't have to be an attention requiring puppy or kitten. Survivorship A to Z provides advice about how to live with a pet including how avoid getting an infection from them. Please see "To Learn More."

Think of family and friends as part of your support team. Ask for help when you need it. Your needs are first, but also consider theirs.

Your team

Start thinking about the people around you as well 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 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 cancer or who undergo 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 tell you about what they may find out. Check any information you do learn with your doctor.

Ask for the help you need

Don't 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 and deal with everything that comes up after a 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.

Consider a tip from Jeannette, a cancer survivor: she appointed a friend to coordinate her family and friends for her. It took away the burden. It was also helpful to her team members because they could more easily say "no" when they had to.

Give appropriate chores to underage children. It will help them feel like a part of your team. (To learn more about children, click here)

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 a legal way of reducing your assets. We have an article concerning Caregiver Contracts noted in "To Learn More."

Ask someone to go with you to important meetings with doctors

It is helpful to have a family member or friend attend all important meetings with doctors. Until treatment starts, that is basically every meeting. Such a person can help in a batch of ways, including helping ask questions, help you to recall what was said, and to help relieve anxiety. We also recommend that you take digital or tape recorder to each session, but you'll learn about tips like that in our content about maximizing your time with a doctor. 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 you find about your disease and treatment through the Circle of Sharing offsite link at the American Cancer Society.

Expect that people will let you know when they hear stories about other people with your cancer or who undergo 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 tell you about what they may find out. Check any information you do learn with your doctor.

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.

Non-medical professionals in your life

Tell the non-medical professionals in your life 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.

Work issues: If you are an employee, ask for the accommodations which make it possible to juggle treatment and work. If you need time off, negotiate for it. People who are business owners or are self employed should avoid making important decisions if pos

Whether you can continue work and do other activities depends on your treatment and how it affects you. For some treatments, you may need to stay in a hospital for a week or more, but most people are able to keep working during treatment. 

For chemotherapy or radiation, you might be able to schedule your treatments late in the day or right before the weekend so that they interfere with work as little as possible. If there is flexibility, surgery can be scheduled during a slow period.

You may be able to work from home or arrange a part-time schedule. (These kinds of changes at work to allow you to do your work are known as "accommodations.") Federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, and similar state laws, require employers to provide people with a "disability" an accommodation. 

To arrange an accommodation or for time off, you will need to negotiate with your employer. Part of the discussion will be a disclosure of your condition. It is preferable to with a supervisor in human resources. Remind him or her that you expect this information to remain confidential as required by law -- at least until you have a chance to decide who you want to tell and when.

Keep in mind that what you tell co-workers is not confidential information.

If you haven't already, look for an advisor at work who has been with the company long enough to know the way people with your diagnosis are treated. She or he can help guide you through the potential minefield. An advisor should be someone you trust not to disclose what you talk about.

If you need a change at work because of your health condition or treatment to enable you to do your job, read the Survivorship A to Z article on accommodations to learn how to get one.

Start keeping track of anything that may indicate that you are being discriminated against because of your health condition. Include all positive comments you receive. (To learn more, see our information on the Americans With Disabilities Act).

Start looking at your insurance and financial situation to determine how you will pay for medical care. Even with health insurance, medical care can be costly. Free or low cost care is available if you are Uninsured or Underinsured

If you have health insurance:
  • Do whatever is necessary to keep it. Health insurance is vitally important.
  • Learn what your health insurance does and does not cover, whether you are restricted to a group of doctors or hospitals or have a broader choice, and what needs prior approval, if anything.
  • Learn how to maximize use of your health insurance.
  • Keep in mind: if you don't get what you want from your insurer, look for a source of influence that can help. If that doesn't work: appeal - and appeal again. Be persistent. If appeals don't work, think about pressure you can apply on the insurer - such as through the state Insurance Commission or through the press. (We tell you how to frame your story to get press attention in the document listed in "To Learn More.")

If you don't have health insurance, there are still ways to access health care.. It is also possible to still get health insurance.

Note that all medical bills are negotiable

Do enough financial planning to get you through treatment. When you are finished with treatment, and your head clears, you can focus on your finances. The objective will be to get you in the best shape you can to keep up your living standard in case something like this happens again. At the same time, you can plan for the money needed to meet your goals in life. We show you how to do financial planning that considers your health condition. It doesn't take a lot of time to do basic planning. If you're the type of personality that wants to keep busy to help distract you from the effects of your treatment, feel free to go ahead now. Just don't make any major decisions until you have to.

Do finance basics. Pay your rent or mortgage and mniimums on your credit card. Start keeping track of all medical services you receive and expenses you pay. Don't pay a medical bill just because you receive one.

Whether you pay your rent, mortgage and credit cards on time affects your credit rating. In turn, your credit rating will determine how much money you can borrow and at what price if you need money. You may need money to pay for your medical expenses or to keep your lifestyle. Credit rating also impacts areas of life such as automobile insurance premiums. Do what you can to protect and improve it.

Don't let any insurance policy lapse for non-payment. The last thing you need at this point is a large economic loss that could have been insured against.

When you keep track of medical expenses, include the cost of getting to and from doctors. Medical expenses may be deductible for tax purposes.

Also keep track of the medical services you receive.

  • If you pay the bills, you'll want to know what services were received.
  • If an insurer pays the bills, it's important to keep track so the insurer doesn't pay for services not received.

Don't pay a medical bill just because you receive it. Many health care providers send insureds bills even if the amount is covered by insurance. Check the bill to be sure:

  • That the service was received AND 
  • That you owe it instead of the insurance company.
  • If you owe a bill, you can likely negotiate the amout due.

Tell your personal lawyer, accountant and financial adviser about your illness. The more they know about you, the more they can help.

Financial assistance is available.

A variety of government and private programs provide financial assistance. Resources for practical needs are also available. For more information, see National Cancer Institute's Financial Assistance And Other Resources For People With Cancer.
offsite link
Assistance with drugs may be available.

Also, learn how to save money when purchasing drugs. For instance, tell your doctor that finances are a problem and ask for the drug that accomplishes the purpose with the least cost. The doctor may prescribe an older, less expensive version of the drug that does the same thing as the newer, more expensive one. There are also less costly generic versions of many drugs. Generics contain the same ingredients but doesn't have a brand name. When thinking about cost, include the cost of tests that may be required with a particular drug.

Drugs and treatments do not work in a vacuum. Think of the food you eat, the exercise you get, rest/sleep and even proper care of your mouth as steps you can take to make treatments and drugs most effective.

Food geared to the needs of your particular treatment, appropriate exercise and rest can help you your treatment work. Dental health also counts. (Mounting evidence indicates that poor oral care can worsen serious medical problems).

This may be a time when you want to reach for what you think of as your comfort foods - the foods that make you feel better when you're down. Do it occasionally - 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.

Existing evidence strongly suggests that exercise is safe and possible during cancer treatment. It also can improve physical functioning and some aspects of quality of life.

Exercise doesn't have to be done at the gym, or even that strenuous. There are even exercises you can do lying in bed or sitting in a chair. Brisk walking helps.

You can learn about exercise during treatment from the American Cancer Society by clicking here offsite link.

Modify your (hopefully)healthy diet to make up for nutrients your treatment uses up. Get dietary counseling.

The American Cancer Society has a booklet available online: Nutrition For The Person With Cancer During Treatment. As of this writing, it is available at the following link: offsite link  (If the link is broken, type "Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment" in the search box at offsite link

Recent studies confirm the benefit of dietary counseling during cancer treatment for improving outcomes, such as fewer treatment-related symptoms, improved quality of life, and better dietary intake. For informatoin about dietitians/nutritionists and how to find one, click here. 

Speak with other people who are going through what you are.

You are not alone. Experience shows that there is nothing quite like speaking with another person who is going through the same thing that you are.

Your local or national cancer organization can hook you up with someone going through a similar situation or with someone who has been there

If there is no one nearby, you can make contact with people anywhere in the country over the internet or on the telephone. You can make connections through your specialist, a social worker or your national or local disease specific nonprofit organization.

Consider joining a support group for the practical information as well as support.

If you have a spouse or significant other, you will both face challenges from the treatment and side effects. There is no right or wrong way to handle the situation. Cooperative problem solving and mutual support is key.

Each couple's relationship is affected in unique ways by the stress of a cancer diagnosis, treatment and side effects. With the diagnosis, future plans are suddenly, unexpectedly, called into question. With the treatment, ways of doing things need to be changed temporarily and perhaps permanently.

One of the most common side effects to cancer treatment, and one of the most difficult for couples to deal with, is fatigue. The healthy partner takes over activities and responsibilities you can't do for a while, or perhaps permanently. Perhaps some of your activities can be turned over to other people. If you feel well enough, consider taking over some of the activities your beloved usually does that you feel well enough to do.

You may not feel like having sexual relations right now. If so, let the other person know. Also let the person know your feeling has nothing to do with him or her. There are other ways of loving and supporting each other that are not sexual. For instance, holding each other, and cuddling.

It's not unusual for a relationship to have ups and downs. There may even be small crises. The stress 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 a support group for couples.

If it's needed, professional help is available. Speak with a social worker, or psychologist who works with patients with a condition such as yours.

If you have underage children, tell them about what is going on in an age appropriate manner. Monitor their behavior. Arrange for their care in case something happens to you.

Tell your children about what is going on.
Tell each child in a manner that is appropriate for his or her age and personality. Children will know something is happening and will likely assume it is their fault if they are not told. How to tell children of different ages is described in the article noted in "To Learn More."

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 article 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.

Arrange for their care while undergoing treatment and when needed dureing recovery. It also prudent to make arrangements in case something happens to you and to the child's other parent.

Schedule a dental check up.

An infection in your mouth can lower your body's ability to fight your health condition. Keep your mouth clean. Brush at least twice a day. Floss at least once a day.

If you are undergoing chemotherapy:

  • Postpone teeth cleaning and other dental work.  
  • Ask your doctor about the steps to take to during chemo to minimize oral side effects from the treatment. 

To Learn More

More Information

Oral Care

When treatment ends, celebrate. Read Survivorship A to Z Post Treatment.

When treatment ends, a celebration is in order. Consider making it a small celebration. Save the big one for when you learn your cancer has been eliminated.