Living with Cancer Therapy
The experience of being diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer and undergoing cancer treatment may change the way you feel about your body, and it will affect your life in many ways. Regardless of the treatment prescribed, you are likely to experience fatigue, frequent medical appointments and times when you do not feel well. Being aware of the possible treatment effects may help you anticipate them and plan ways to cope.
Regardless of the treatment prescribed, you are likely to experience fatigue, frequent medical appointments and times when you do not feel well enough to take care of tasks at home. You will need to rely on family and friends to help with some of the things you usually do. You may want to consider hiring someone for help with chores until you feel well enough to manage again.
If you know you will not have support at home, talk frankly with your health care team as early as possible so alternatives can be explored. Since a nourishing diet is important, be sure to ask for help, if needed, in maintaining healthy meal and snack choices in your home.
Be sure that your blood count is checked to rule out anemia as a treatable cause of fatigue. There are also medications for the relief of fatigue.
Facing the World
The effects of cancer and your cancer treatment may alter your appearance. You may appear fatigued, pale and slow-moving, and you may have to face temporary hair loss. You may feel self-conscious because of these changes. It might help to imagine how you might feel if you saw a friend or sister looking as you do—many people are loving you rather than judging you as they notice these changes.
You will probably need to be away from work quite a bit during the first month or two of your treatment. Talk with your supervisors at work and with your health care team to set up a realistic plan for work absences and return to work. Remember to tell your work supervisor that any plan must be flexible because your needs may change as treatment progresses. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers certain protections for workers and family members who must be away from work for health reasons.
Family, Friendships and Fun
No matter what type of treatment you have, you may experience side effects that could affect how you feel about joining in social events with friends and family. Talk to your health care team if special events are coming up such as a wedding or graduation. The timing of your treatments may be able to be adjusted so that you feel as well as possible for these special days. Don’t hesitate to plan activities that you enjoy. You may have to cancel on occasion or leave a little early, but the good times will help you to find strength for the hard days.
It is often difficult for young children to understand what you are going through. Counselors are available to help you answer questions and to help your children cope. It is also a good idea to ask family and friends to help you keep your children’s normal routine.
For many people, driving is an almost indispensable part of adult life. You should not drive if you are taking medications that cause drowsiness, such as narcotic pain relievers and some nausea medications. Most women can start driving again within a few weeks of surgery, and usually women can drive most days during chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Be sure to ask your health care team about driving.