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.
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- Survivorship & Side Effects
- Survivorship & Work
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!
Many cancer patients face hair loss, also known as alopecia, as a result of undergoing treatment. While this is a common side effect of cancer treatment, losing one’s hair can still be a significant emotional challenge.
The good news is that this change in appearance usually doesn’t last forever. Most cancer patients see hair growth begin shortly after they are finished with their treatments, but until that time many people turn to head coverings such as wigs, turbans, and scarves to help them feel more comfortable during this stage.
Chemotherapy plays an important role in most cancer patients’ treatment regimens – because it’s very effective at killing fast-growing cancer cells throughout the body. Unfortunately, chemotherapy also kills fast-growing healthy cells. As a result, many cancer patients experience both short- and long-term side effects of chemotherapy.
Most people are familiar with the short-term side effects of chemo, which often include:
Because lung cancer develops in the lungs, as you’d probably expect, its most common symptoms involve the lungs. Persistent coughing, coughing up blood or excess mucus, shortness of breath, and chest pain are all common signs of lung cancer. The presence of these symptoms doesn’t definitively mean you have lung cancer, though, as they can also be caused by other conditions. That’s why it’s important to be evaluated by your doctor sooner rather than later.
Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) are part of your immune system, and they let you know when your body is fighting an infection by becoming enlarged or sensitive to the touch. They also function as an early warning system for some types of cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia, and breast cancer.
What are Lymph Nodes?
Lymph is a clear fluid that circulates throughout your body, bringing nutrients to cells and carrying away bacteria and waste products. This fluid flows through a special system of tiny vessels in your body, passing through small bean-shaped filtering organs called lymph nodes. Some nodes are as large as an inch across, while others are as small as a pinhead.
When you have cancer, even the most joyous of holidays can leave you feeling sad. On top of all the physical stresses, the thought of missing out on get-togethers and family meals can make it hard to get into the holiday spirit.
Of course, you should first talk to your oncology team before the holidays to determine what would be reasonable for you. Sometimes travel isn’t recommended. But for others, it can be done as long as you have a plan for what to do if you experience new pain or side effects while away from home.