There’s no preparing for a cancer diagnosis. But when it comes to treatment, you can get yourself ready for what’s ahead. Even taking small steps can improve your sense of well-being and control, experts say.
Here are some things to do before your chemotherapy or radiation treatment begins.
Have a Clear Plan
“One of the single most important things you can do is to make sure you and your cancer care team are on the same page about exactly what your treatment involves,” says Dale R. Shepard, MD, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic. “That includes what will happen during treatment, how long treatment will take, what the potential side effects are, and what the ultimate goal of your treatment is.”
Have a spouse or a friend take notes while you talk with your doctor. Also, get a second opinion if you feel you need one. “If you have any uncertainties, getting another opinion can help you make sure you’re on board with what your doctor’s recommending,” Shepard says.
Don’t worry about offending your doctor or surgeon -- you’re taking an active role in your own care.
Plan for What You Can
No matter what your treatment is, you won’t feel your best during recovery. So think about what you might need and plan ahead.
“A lot of frustration and anxiety before and during chemo or radiation isn’t actually about cancer, but about practical concerns: ‘How will I get back and forth to the hospital?’ or ‘Who will take care of my dog?’” says Wendy Griffith. She's a social worker at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Tap Into Your Network
- Have friends and family help you figure out what you need -- and what you don’t. (For example, maybe you don’t need lots of extra food in your fridge.)
- Ask people to take on specific jobs, like picking up the kids, walking the dog, or keeping up the housework.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Griffith says. “People are almost always happy to chip in; they’re just waiting for you to tell them what you need.”