The Compass Oncology lung cancer specialists encourage everyone to take a moment on March 20th to observe "National Kick Butts Day.” This day focuses on the health risks of tobacco use, including smoking, as a part of our practice’s efforts to reduce the number of lung cancer cases diagnosed each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, that’s close to 700 cases each year in the Portland-Vancouver area.
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Only those who have been through the ups and downs of having and then recovering from cancer truly understand the fact that completing treatment doesn’t automatically lead to a stress-free life. When cancer treatment ends, so do some causes of stress. However, different causes of stress may take their place as you transition into life as a cancer survivor. Here are some of the most common stressors for cancer survivors, and suggestions for dealing with them.
Parenting is tough enough as it is – but parenting after a cancer diagnosis can present a whole new set of unique challenges. Even after cancer treatment has ended and the cancer patient becomes a cancer survivor, families realize that it takes time to pick up the pieces and create a new normal that works for everyone. This can often lead to disappointment, worry, and frustration for both parents and children.
It can be hard to deal with the reputation that surrounds HPV and other gynecological cancers and get down to facts. With so much information-- and misinformation-- at our fingertips, getting a solid understanding of what HPV is and how it impacts the people who have it can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
When you were a cancer patient, you probably relied on others out of sheer necessity. If you received chemotherapy or radiation treatments, they may have left you feeling too ill and exhausted to drive, cook, clean, or do much of anything. If you had surgery, you probably needed help with even the most basic tasks while you were recovering. One of the most difficult things for many cancer patients to come to terms with is having to relinquish their independence during treatment.
Especially if your cancer treatment lasted for a long time, you may have become accustomed to other people doing things for you. Now you are a cancer survivor. Your cancer is in remission, you may have been cleared by your oncology team to resume many of the tasks you’ve been relying on others to do for you. This can be exciting, but also perhaps a bit scary as you regain strength and start to test your physical limits.
Now that you’re a cancer survivor, have you wondered what your responsibility might be? While some people prefer to put their cancer experience behind them, many others choose to use their valuable experience to help others. From volunteering and fundraising to advocacy and spreading awareness, there are many ways you can give back and make a difference in the fight against cancer close to home, right here in Portland, Oregon.
When you were being treated for cancer, you may have experienced loss of appetite, changes to your senses of taste and smell, and bouts of nausea. Eating regularly while you were going through treatment may have felt more like a chore. But now, as a cancer survivor, you’re likely to regain your appetite.
It’s important to be mindful of what and how much you’re eating as you get back into a more regular routine. Some survivors are looking to regain after losing too much weight while other survivors may want to maintain or even lose a few pounds after treatment. Using the end of cancer treatment as a fresh start, it’s a good time to focus on practicing healthy eating habits.
As you start to feel better after your cancer treatment program is complete, you may be trying to decide what’s right for your career and for your family. You may want to go back to your old job if it’s still available. Or you may want to find something new to do.
Finding the right job can be tricky, even if you’re not a cancer survivor. Your history as a cancer patient may make it even tougher to find the right job. You’re not required to disclose any of your medical history to a current or potential employer. And, it’s illegal for employers to ask about your medical history or require that you take a medical exam as part of the application process.
Transitioning from a cancer patient to a cancer survivor signifies that you have physically healed from cancer. It does not mean you’ve physically healed from the effects of chemo. You’re probably still experiencing side effects. Survivorship also doesn’t mean that you have healed emotionally. Emotional wellbeing is much harder to measure. And right now, during yet another life transition, you and your family could be experiencing a lot of different feelings.
Let’s be clear about one important fact: Your medical history and health concerns are entirely your business. When you were diagnosed with cancer, you may have decided not to share that news with your co-workers. Now that you’re a cancer survivor planning your return to work, you need to decide how you will address the subject of your cancer in a way you’re comfortable with.
Keeping your cancer diagnosis a secret from co-workers after you return to work usually isn’t practical. More than likely, you’ll look different when you return to work than you did when you left. You may be wearing a wig or your hair may be growing back. You may have lost a substantial amount of weight. Some symptoms of cancer treatment can’t be hidden. If you don’t provide an explanation for your physical changes, your co-workers will probably worry about your overall health. When you do tell them, they’ll probably have plenty of questions - mostly out of concern for you!