1. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis often throws a person out of balance in every aspect of life. It is never easy, not just for the patients, but for their caregivers as well. There is suddenly a myriad of decisions to make about treatments and recovery. For example, it can be daunting to deal with the numerous medical appointments or experiencing side effects from treatment. But one part of the cancer process that often gets pushed aside is the psychological aspect – how does one manage the many emotional and mental toll that comes with it?
There are some things you can never really prepare for. In a flash, life takes a sharp turn and your life becomes that of another. Of course, not every cancer diagnosis is the same and neither are people’s reactions towards it. Outcomes of treatment can range from complete recovery to best palliative care, depending on type and stage of cancer as well as existing health issues.
2. Cancer – An overview
Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things. Normal healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly manner, so that growth and repair of the body tissue can take place.
However, when genetic changes interfere with this orderly process, cells start to grow uncontrollably to form a tumour that may possess the ability to invade and spread to other parts of the body. Such cells are termed cancer cells.
There are more than 200 different types of cancer; each of which is diagnosed and treated in a particular way. Depending on the type, stage and overall health of an individual, cancer treatment options vary between one or a combination of the following: Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and stem cell transplantation.
3. Coping with cancer treatment side effects
Side effects occur when treatment damages healthy cell. The extent and duration can vary widely among individuals and the type of cancer treatment the individuals receive. The type of drugs used in chemotherapy or dosage of radiotherapy may also influence the extent of side effects felt. Here are the more common side effects of cancer treatment, as well as a few recommendations that can improve a patient’s quality of life, outlook, and overall mood on the road to recovery!
3.1. Nausea and vomiting:
- Avoid consuming a heavy meal just before chemotherapy.
- Try having small frequent meals throughout the day.
- Try taking medications as prescribed by your physician for nausea and vomiting.
- Stay hydrated as you lose vital fluids with each bowel movement.
- Consider Gatorade or Pedialyte to help replenish salts in the body.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks and dairy products. Avoid food that are high in fiber, fatty and/or spicy.
- Eat foods high in fiber (e.g. fruits and vegetables).
- Exercise twenty to thirty minutes most days of the week, as tolerated.
- Hydrate well, at least eight glasses of water everyday.
3.4. Loss of appetite:
- Try having small frequent meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than 3 large meals.
- Eat your favourite foods any time of the day.
- Keep high-calorie, high-protein snacks on hand.
- Avoid drinking liquids with meals, take only small sips to avoid feeling full early. Remember to stay hydrated!
3.5. Hair loss:
- Usually hair will start to grow back completely six to twelve months after completion of treatment.
- Avoid hair coloring and limit use of hairdryers and other heating devices.
- Buy a scarf, cap, wig or turban as bald head is more susceptible to sunburn. These accessories will help an individual look good.
- Spread your activities throughout the day and take breaks in between.
- Drink lots of fluids and eat well to help keep energy reserves up.
4. Battle to return to normalcy
Regardless of prognosis, there are ways to address and manage your loved ones’ reactions so that their focus can be directed towards treating their condition. Below are examples of therapies and support groups that patients and their families can explore to help them along the journey of rehabilitation.
4.1. Art and Music Therapy
Research has shown that drawing, painting and playing music have proved to be ways to help cancer patients express and cope with difficult feelings. Everyone has a talent they can tap into! As long as you provide all the tools and instruments, your loved ones can enjoy the healing benefits of art whether they’re at home or in groups.
4.2. Get informed
Being an active participant in one’s own health care can help allay anxiety and stress levels. “Understanding the process, how treatments will work, and how they will affect you in terms of side effects and recovery removes the mystery of what to expect and gives you a greater sense of control,” says Dr. Peteet. The National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and National Cancer Institute of Singapore (NCIS) have a wide range of resources available online ranging from the basics of cancer to recommendations provided by experts.
4.3. Support groups
“Your cancer journey: You’re not alone.” Rely on SingHealth and NCCS for a comprehensive range of support services and resources to help connect a community of individuals dealing with debilitating diseases like cancer. They are very important in terms of providing psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families. Here’s a list of the more popular self-help groups in Singapore:
- Breast Cancer Support Group – A monthly gathering for women with breast cancer to help each other through shared experiences, bonding activities, and healing workshops.
- Gynae-Oncology Self-Help Group – A group that meets twice a month for patients with gynaecological or pelvic cancers.
- Mandarin Support Group – A specialty group for cancer patients who only speak Mandarin.
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer Self-Help Group – A monthly support group for people with mouth, nose, throat, head, and neck cancer.
- The Revival Connection – A group that helps cancer patients deal with insomnia with stress-relieving exercises that aid in improving relaxation and sleep regulation.
- KK Women’s Cancer Support Group – Run by nurses and care providers, this group helps women with gynaecological cancers with inspiring events.
- KK Alpine Blossoms Breast Cancer Support Group – This support group focuses on women with breast cancer with community gatherings and events all year round.
- KK heART Support Group – Using arts, crafts, and music, the heART helps all patients tap into their creative potential. This fun event happens twice a month and they exhibit each patient’s work of art to the public!
- Caregivers’ Support Programme – This group aims to help provide care for the caregivers who care for the elderly and children.
- Grief In Recovery Support Group – Grieving spouses are offered a regular get together to help them cope with their loss.
- Cancer Helpline – For counselling, advice, and recommendations, patients and caregivers can call the NCCS hotline or email email@example.com.
4.4. Psychosocial support
Need to speak to someone about non-medical issues? The Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) and NCCS have a team of counsellors and social workers, who are specially trained to help you cope with your emotion upheaval and assist with accessing of relevant information, financial resources and support groups along your cancer journey.
5. Home care support for cancer patients and their caregivers
Advancements in cancer therapeutics and early detection have created opportunities for outpatient treatments and shorter hospital stays. Therefore, the responsibility for care of cancer patients is falling increasingly on family members. Though caring for our loved ones at home throughout the cancer treatment and recovery journey is usually the preferred choice, it is well-known that most caregivers eventually experience strain and stresses, especially if they have to juggle other family responsibilities. It is important for the cancer patients and their families to know what professional assistance is available and where to get them when needed.
Here are the common home care services cancer patients and their families might need:
- Nursing care: such as administering IV injection or wound care.
- Personal care: to help cancer patients with daily tasks during treatment and recuperation such as exercising, taking medication or meal preparation.
- Physical therapy: to provide comfort or help cancer patients regain strength for weakened muscles or joints during or after cancer treatment.
- Caregiver training: to equip family caregiver with necessary caregiving skills to care for your recovering loved ones.
- Respite care: caregiving services provided on emergency or temporary basis to help family members take a break from their caregiving duty.
6. Cancer care right at home with Ninkatec
Worried about not having adequate clinical knowledge while caring for a family member at home? Ninkatec strives to make healthcare easily accessible for everyone right at home. To start with, check out our Cancer Home Care Resources and Guides written and curated by Ninkatec Care Team, to help you navigate through this period of uncertainty and adjustment.
Ninkatec’s home care plans for cancer patients provides personalised care for your loved ones based on their specific cancer care needs. Powered by medical technology, our solutions provide round-the-clock remote monitoring supported by an experienced team of healthcare professionals who are able to provide medical services and clinical advices at any time. Care plans are recommended based on evaluating each patient’s needs, which may include medical/nursing procedures and doctors home visits.
Need assistance post discharge from the hospital? Is your caregiver away and you require assistance for care of your loved ones at home? Let Ninkatec ease your caregiver stresses by contacting us for a free consultation. Let the healing journey begin right from the comfort of your home!