When it comes to going through cancer, it can feel like there’s something new to learn everyday. Whether you yourself have had the diagnosis or you’re supporting a loved one through it, things you thought you knew go out the window as you try to adapt to the new normal. As you look ahead to everything that’s to come, it’s easy, and pretty normal, to feel overwhelmed and scared by it all.
To cope with this, we asked existing members of our community, as well War On Cancer team members who have experienced cancer, to share the one thing they’d wish they’d known before they, or a loved one, started cancer treatment.
The answers are eye-opening, hearting-warming and educational. We hope they help.
Cancer’s not a dirty word
It’s ok to talk about cancer. It’s ok for cancer to be a part of the conversation. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, be the elephant in the room. As War On Cancer CEO and Co-Founder, Sebastian, says “I wish I knew that cancer doesn’t define the patient, who is still the same person.”
Cancer can be scary and isolating. Not talking about it or feeling like it’s something to ignore only makes that fear and loneliness worse. Your loved ones are still your loved one, even if they’re about to undergo treatment. Keep treating them as such.
The side effects of treatment
Cancer treatment comes with side effects. While some of them, like hair loss, are things people expect other side effects are less spoken about and left many of our community wishing they’d known about them before.
Side effects they wished they known about include:
- The nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- The sheer exhaustionBone and joint pain
- Brain fog (chemo brain)
- Just how quickly hair loss would start
- Losing fingernails
For many, a cancer diagnosis and all that comes with it, is totally new. Being aware of some of the other side effects treatment may cause allows people to be mentally prepared for how they might end up feeling. Removing that element of ‘surprise’ and knowing what to expect is one way we can build mental resilience when it comes to going through cancer treatment.
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition
Going through cancer treatment can leave you feeling completely exhausted, so it’s really important you keep your strength up and give your body all the nutrients it needs. However, when we asked, ‘nutrition’ was something War On Cancer community members wish they’d known more about before starting treatment.
We know how important the conversation around cancer and nutrition is. That’s why we’ve got multiple articles, written in partnership with cancer and nutrition experts, to provide you with the all important information you might need before, during and after cancer treatment.
Learn about prepping your body for cancer treatment and bust some cancer and nutrition myths.
Changes to our bodies
Both physically and mentally, cancer treatment impacts our bodies.
New scars from surgery, no longer being able to regulate body temperature, hair that grows back differently and being sent into early menopause are all physical things that members of our community wished they’d known about before treatment.
Equally, some members spoke about how following treatment, they’d had to come to terms with the new limits of their bodies. No longer able to participate in the physical activities they enjoyed before cancer to the same degree, they spoke about how finding new activities that their bodies could do really helped.
Coping with life after cancer
There’s no denying it, for so many, life ‘after’ cancer is different. What do you do when treatment ends and ‘normal’ life is meant to resume? As War On Cancer community Manager, Linnea says “I was so focused on simply getting through treatment that once I had finished treatment I felt lost and I didn’t know who I was anymore.”
There is no right or wrong way to go about life after cancer. Whether treatment is over or you’re on long term medication, embracing (or trying to embrace) your new normal is the best thing you can do. There is no pressure to ping back into your old routine, hobbies or habits. It’s ok to accept that going through cancer, or supporting a loved one through cancer, changes you.
Community member, Sarah, said “What I wish I’d known better was life after cancer and the mental struggle coming with it.” Don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re feeling. Many people impacted by cancer report feeling anxious or depressed following treatment. Help is out there. Talk to your doctor about how you’re doing and find a place where you share what you’re going through with others who understand… The War On Cancer community is pretty good for that.
Make the most of the good days
Like community member, Jennifer, says “I wish someone would have told me to really take advantage of the good days! Then you don’t feel so bad about doing absolutely nothing on the bad ones.”
Going through cancer is a rollercoaster. Embrace the good days and try to roll with the not-so-good days. Do the things that make you happy, surround yourself with a strong support system and know that you don’t have to face things alone.