Well, I learned that there is a lot you can do, and five things in particular.
1. Know Your Options
Your doctor is your best source to review what is available. I did some research on my own regarding clinical trials and new drugs. I was taking letrozole (Femera) but I found that there are other hormonal options. Although I had six rounds of chemotherapy, there are other chemo drugs my doctor said we could also try. New drugs have been approved, and clinical trials are leading to promising new ones. I knew the names of the drugs I wanted information on and I knew the questions I wanted answered when I met with my doctor. I also knew about clinical trials that I might be eligible for.
2. Get a Second Opinion
My oncologist met with the tumor board at his hospital and they suggested one treatment option, but he also agreed with me when I told him I wanted to meet with the doctor at the university hospital regarding her clinical trial. His office armed me with my reports so I could meet with her and my naturopathic doctors. I also had an appointment with a radiologist at another hospital to review new radiation therapies.
3. Manage Your Symptoms
Symptoms like pain, fatigue, and brain fog from cancer and treatment can be debilitating. It is difficult to stay hopeful when you are plagued with them. I know my peak energy times and I rest when fatigue is at its worst. I manage pain so that it doesn’t get too severe. I consult with my doctor to address these and also seek alternative and naturopathic treatment.
4. Build Your Support Network
As soon as I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer a year ago, friends rallied with support. Even long-lost friends sought me out to make sure I knew they were there for me. This past year, I have strengthened these relationships and asked for help and prayer when needed. At Christmas I hosted a brunch for those living near me to show my gratitude. Once people knewmy cancer was progressing they closed in around me to keep my spirits up and hope alive.
5. Focus on the Future
We all have things we want to do. Often we talk about doing them next year or even later. Living with a disease like cancer is like looking at your future through binoculars: It brings the far things into view. I love to travel. I have three trips planned this year. I also have a passion to help people change their lives and achieve their goals. I am now setting up my coaching business to do just that. My future is now, but the more I share this with people, the more they feel motivated to live their dreams too. You don’t have to have cancer to realize life could be slipping by.
Most importantly, you must remember that cancer is not in control, you are!