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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.

Content Overview

In Treatment For Cancer


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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.

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