A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer requires a patient to adapt to many life changes. The disease is accompanied by a wide range of new, and sometimes difficult, emotions, various physical symptoms, and numerous decisions regarding care. While the disease, and its treatment, can be stressful, there are a few things a patient can do to better cope with the disease.
Develop a Strong Support System
At times during the course of the disease, a patient may feel anxious and lonely, shocked and angry, or settled and in control. It is important to recognize that this rollercoaster of emotions is natural. Pancreatic cancer, and its treatment, may also create certain physical symptoms such as pain, digestive difficulties, and fatigue. If poorly controlled, these symptoms can cause distress and may lead to a poorer quality of life. A strong support system, including family, friends, clergy, and a good medical team, will help a patient deal with these different aspects of pancreatic cancer.
A patient's family and friends will be important members of a support network. Patients may find comfort in talking to their support network about emotions and physical feelings on a day to day basis. Patients may also need members of their support system to help with practical aspects of house chores and daily living during periods of his care.
Family and friends may be experiencing similar emotions and stresses to the patient. Talking openly about them can often help everyone cope with pancreatic cancer.
There may be times when patients may find comfort in writing in a journal, joining a formal support group, or seeking individual counseling. Patients may find it easier to fully express themselves in these settings. Additionally, patients may find value in talking with other individuals who are also dealing with cancer. Other patients can often validate feelings, share experiences, and provide companionship. Besides providing another source of information, support groups can provide opportunities for patients to help other people cope. Many find this process of helping other people with their care rewarding and empowering.
The medical team is also a significant part of a patient's support network. It is important for a patient to trust and be able to confide in members of his medical team. A patient should always feel comfortable discussing any aspect of his cancer with his medical team and to look for guidance on how to cope with new or chronic aspects of the disease.
Maintain a Positive Outlook
It can be difficult to remain positive when facing a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. However, staying positive and hoping for the best can push a patient to continue battling the disease and follow medical advice. A positive outlook can help a patient take better care of him or herself, and can also inspire a patient to appreciate those things that are meaningful in the present as opposed to focusing on what may be lost in the future. Patients' support networks can help them stay positive throughout the course of the disease.
Take Control of What Can Be Controlled
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer can introduce a lot of chaos into a patient's life. Patients often find it easier to cope when they maintain some kind of control. One way to achieve this is by learning about the disease and staying abreast of treatment innovations. This will help a patient make smart decisions and recognize choices when they are available. Another is to ask for help from family and friends in maintaining as normal a routine as possible.
Following all medical advice and staying organized is also a good way to maintain control. It is important that an individual keep track of any appointments, medications, expenses, or deadlines that may accompany the disease. Because the patient may be tired from medical treatments or feel overwhelmed, members of the patient's support network: family and friends, can help the patient stay organized. Supportive friends and family can drive patients to appointments, pick up pharmacy medicines, and help with day to day chores. By staying organized, asking for help, and getting rest, a patient can better focus on getting better and affecting the variables that he can influence.
Be Aware of Negative Feelings That Won't Go Away
It is important to remember that throughout the course of dealing with pancreatic cancer, a patient will have good days and bad days. However, when bad days persist and a patient does not seem to have any relief from negative feelings, a patient may be suffering from depression. Depression is common among pancreatic cancer patients. It is important to realize that depression is a treatable complication of pancreatic cancer and patients should contact their physician if they believe they may be depressed.
Depression can take the form of intangible feelings like low self esteem, hopelessnesss, and persistent thoughts about death or suicide, or depression may manifest with physical symptoms like poor appetite, low energy, and disrupted sleep. Patients and their support networks should be attentive to these symptoms so that a patient can get the necessary treatment.
At the Pancreas Center, patients have access to a team of experts who specialize in treating and counseling patients with pancreatic cancer and have extensive experience helping cancer patients cope.
Request an Appointment or call us at 212.305.9467.