When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, I was in disbelief. I wondered, why me? I went through treatment with the mentality that it’s just one of those things you have to do, but even with people checking in on me, I often felt isolated. In hindsight, there was a lot that went into me staying motivated to keep putting one foot in front of the other each day.

Dealing with discomfort:

The chemo made me nauseous, and radiation made my skin unbearably dry. I learned to use cream rather than lotion, because the alcohol in lotions dries out the skin. I also made myself drink 8 glasses of water a day. I had to meet with a nutritionist to learn how to eat healthy when – nauseous as I was – I had little to no appetite. I started eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks.

Now I didn’t have this problem, but a lot of our members are also really bothered by the smell of the hospital- that sanitizer smell. Somewhere along the line one of my coworkers had the idea of using Vick’s vapor rub, and we now recommend that to all our members as it can help with the smell.

Making moves to combat pain and fatigue:

I had to pace myself throughout the day, but whenever I was up to it, I walked. It was about the only activity I could do, and it helped me to have more energy. I didn’t think to use a stretch band or stress ball, which we give our members here at Pack Health, but these are great tools for low impact exercises that help maintain muscle mass.

Tapping into something bigger than myself:

For me personally, I found a lot of social support in my church. Prayer was huge, and knowing that people were praying for me was very motivating. People sent me cards in the mail, they called to check in… That support was huge.

Many of our members at Pack Health have found a similar sense of community in online and local support groups. Especially for folks who don’t have as many friends or family members living close by, these kinds of communities are key.

Speaking up:

At first, I was able to drive myself to treatments, but at a certain point, I had to ask for help. There were a number of times where I had out of town friends stay with me. I just think back, and I think where would I have been without these people? I just had to ask and there they were.

Also, at the doctor’s office, they just told me to take my meds and go to my treatments. I had to ask to see a nutritionist. I had to ask if it was okay to walk. If I hadn’t spoken up and asked those questions, I might not have done the most basic things needed to improve my health.

Focusing on the positive:

Do something special for yourself every week – whether it’s watching a funny movie, talking on the phone, going out to lunch… There’s no time like the present to just pamper yourself.

Above are my top five tips for cancer treatment, but I have one last piece of advice, I have to say, for survivors: don’t waste this experience. Make the most of what you’ve been through. Help someone else. This is why I had cancer: so I can help others. And I believe that.

Want to share your story or learn more about our cancer program? Feel free to comment on this post, or email me directly at barbara@packhealth.com.