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Take Control of Your Recovery

Medical specialists can help you, but your life is in your own hands. Simply following doctor’s orders, accepting standard “one-size-fits-all” treatment and sitting back waiting for the “all clear” is probably not going to turn out well. 
There is a lot you can do to ensure a better and lasting recovery with as little pain and distress as possible.

“While it might be tempting to bury your head in the sand, abdicating responsibility won’t help you heal. So rise up, read up and take the reins. The road to health starts with being fully informed.”

Laura Bond. Author: Mum’s Not Having Chemo: Cutting-edge therapies, real-life stories – a road-map to healing from cancer.

Taking control of your recovery means being assertive and willing to represent your interests in managing your life threatening disease. It means communicating clearly about your cancer care needs. It includes

Why this is important
“Studies suggest that people who take control of their health—including their physical, mental, and spiritual health—tend to live longer. For example, researchers have found that cancer patients who feel helpless die sooner than those who feel that they can do things—even little things—to help their mood, comfort level, or immune system.” –
Dr Kelly Turner

Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds

Kelly Turner, PhD, a researcher who specializes in integrative oncology, studied one hundred cancer survivors and analysed over one thousand cases of people who experienced a “radical remission” from “incurable” cancer. She found that these people did not sit around waiting for a miracle, but made significant changes in their lives. Dr Kelley found ten healing factors common among all of the cases she studied. These ten key factors are:

  1. Radically changing your diet
  2. Taking control of your health
  3. Following your intuition
  4. Using herbs and supplements
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions
  6. Increasing positive emotions
  7. Embracing social support
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection
  9. Having strong reasons for living
  10. Daily physical Exercise

See more at www.RadicalRemission.com.

This study looked at Judy and Anne – both cancer patients. Judy was a self-advocate and Anne was not.

Judy described her experiences with gaining control over her symptoms of nail toxicity, memory problems and sexuality… She inherently ‘owns’ her symptoms and demonstrates initiative by coordinating her own, personalized goals for each of her symptoms.

A skilled information seeker, she researches options and finds information about cotton gloves and tea tree oil to manage her nail problems. She has built teamwork with her HCPs, referring to her team collectively as ‘we’ and she feels in charge of her treatment. Her problem-solving abilities become apparent as she addresses the chemotherapy-induced nail toxicities that are not being adequately addressed. She makes and follows through on a plan to work with her team to alleviate this symptom and then chooses one of several recommended strategies to carry out. She feels capable of making informed decisions and even turns down certain nail toxicity medications after carefully weighing the risks and benefits to her

In response to her severe and distressing cancer-related symptoms, Judy ends up advocating for herself in a way that gives her a renewed self-concept and hope for the future with a better sense of control over cancer and chemotherapy’s symptoms: ‘It seems like it has been a long time since I have felt so happy and free’.

 ‘Anne’, illustrates how the absence of…self-advocating actions can lead to poorer outcomes.

‘I would like to get on with my life and maybe return to work, but the peripheral neuropathy and fibromyalgia I incurred with chemo and the lack of [my oncologist] treating these conditions makes that impossible’.

The communication between her and her healthcare team has broken down as she adamantly blames her oncologist for her recurrent cancer and distrusts their recommendations: ‘I am so totally aggravated with these side effects I could scream. And especially since my oncologist does not think it is his responsibility to treat them. After all, I did get these side effects and current medical problems from his treatment’. She does not seek out information or work through problem-solving to manage her cancer-related pain even with repeated efforts by the …nurse to provide her with strategies to help her

Instead of creating a ‘new normal’, taking ownership of her cancer and feeling empowered, her thoughts and cognitions seem stuck in feeling victimized by the cancer and her healthcare team and unable to move out of a state of passivity and regret. Anne does not mention any availability or use of outside support groups or organizations.. She states:

‘I am…totally aggravated and out of options. I feel like I have to be a couch potato for the rest of my life to keep these problems at bay …That’s what I meant when I said I should have not had treatment. I don’t like this life I am forced to live.

Comparing Judy and Anne’s examples of self-advocacy and non-self-advocacy clearly distinguish how self-advocacy is a process requiring not only the presence or acquisition of resources and healthcare-related skills, but the crucial step of self-reflection and internalization of the process of self-advocacy to overcome the obstacles presented by cancer and its treatment.

Cancer Survival Tips

Page updated 2024

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