News from Illinois CancerCare

Balancing Your Cancer With Your Life

In today’s world, it can be hard to find balance in our lives. This is especially true for cancer patients and their families.

When diagnosed with cancer, it can feel as if “the big C” has taken over everything in your life. And while it’s important to aggressively attack this interloper, it’s also important to not let cancer crowd out everything else in your life. As a cancer patient – and survivor – it is possible to achieve balance.

Mind and Spirit

After your initial diagnosis, you may find yourself overwhelmed by tests, treatment and taking care of your family. You may feel that you don’t want to bring people down or bore them by talking about your cancer. But it’s okay – good, even – to talk about your feelings.

If you don’t have a personal support system – or you want to supplement the one you have – there are groups designed to help you work through feelings of anger, fear, sadness and helplessness. In addition to support groups for specific types of cancer, your faith leader or a therapist can also be a solid resource for dealing with this challenging time in your life. In addition to your emotional needs, your spouse and children may benefit from support groups or talking with a trusted counselor.

However, in order to maintain emotional and mental balance, it’s smart to also do things that are completely unrelated to your cancer battle. That might mean spending time with friends, pursuing a new hobby or engaging in activities you enjoy. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be in denial about your health situation, but you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time to boost your happiness.

Body and Soul

Throughout your treatment and recovery process, you may discover that you can’t kick into high gear like you did before. Maybe you can’t run a marathon any more, but you can still appreciate the fresh air and health benefits of long walks with friends.

Perhaps you’ve lost your appetite or don’t have the energy to cook. That’s okay, too. Now might be a good time to discover new recipes that other cancer survivors enjoy. If you’re experiencing overwhelming fatigue and are spending your days in bed, treat yourself to a new comforter or binge-watch a funny TV show.

As a parent, you may feel guilty if you’re too tired to attend your child’s school concert. Have a friend record it or watch it live with a service like FaceTime. If you can’t attend worship services, you can find online options that feed your soul. You may discover that you can’t put in as much time as the office. Try to be gentle with yourself and lower the expectations for your productivity.

It may not be easy, but strive to accept your new normal instead of beating yourself up about not being able to do everything you did before. And remind yourself it won’t always be this way.

Depending on your health insurance, many of these services may be covered. Be sure to ask your healthcare providers and insurance company for details regarding coverage so you can be financially prepared for your share of the costs.

Some communities have agencies and organizations that offer free or low-cost supportive services to persons with cancer. For example, the Hult Center for Healthy Living offers free dietetic and counseling services to those with cancer, along free oncology wellness classes and reduced-cost oncology massages. Both UnityPoint and OSF HealthCare have oncology support programs to help patients and their caregivers. The American Cancer Society is also a tremendous resource to help navigate the cancer journey.

Today, more than ever before, patients are overcoming and surviving their cancer diagnosis. That’s why it’s important for patients and their families to incorporate a balanced approach to cancer treatment and daily living. It may help to remember that cancer is just a part of your life … it’s not the only thing in your life.