4 ways to be a friend to someone with cancer

twowomenYou talk to your best friend about everything—big things, little things and anything in between. But when they receive a cancer diagnosis, you may be at a loss for words. Cancer isn’t just impacting your friend’s life, but it affects yours as well. Cancer can create big changes in the dynamic of your friendship, and it’s common to feel unsure of how you should react.  You want to help and support your friend in any way possible, but you don’t want to overstep your bounds. Though no two people or cancer journeys are alike, there are ways you can support and empower your friend throughout the cancer experience that will not only ease their burden, but will help you as well.

  • Be available. Your friend may not always want you to visit, but you can still make yourself available for days when they are feeling well enough for visitors or would like some company. In the meantime, there are still things you can do to be present for your friend, like bringing meals, helping with childcare or running errands. You can also send little notes or gifts to your friend so they know you’re thinking of them, even when you can’t be there.
  • Ask questions. When your friend has cancer you may not know what to expect or what this will mean for the future. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend questions. They may not always have the answers, but will they most likely be grateful that you have an interest in their diagnosis and treatment. Try to routinely to ask your friend if they feel like talking about anything. They may not always feel up to talking, but your support will be appreciated.  Don’t be afraid to ask your friend what they specifically need. Sometimes friends and family are so willing to step in and help that they forget to ask what is truly needed by the patient in that moment.
  • Act normal. Just because cancer has changed the dynamic of the friendship doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself around your friend anymore. It’s ok to still talk about the same things you did before cancer, and your friend may appreciate the opportunity to talk about something other than cancer for a change! Your friend will most likely be relieved that your relationship is still as good as ever.
  • Create a support team. Your friend will be grateful for any kind of support from you during their cancer experience. But, you don’t have to do it alone. Get in touch with your friend’s family to see if they need anything, and reach out to any shared friends or to the community to make sure your friend has plenty of support and available resources.

If you or your friend ever have any questions or concerns, feel free to call the Cancer Support Helpline, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. ET. And, for more tips and resources on being a caregiver, check out Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Ten Tips for Caregivers.  

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What to listen to on your next trip

Untitled-1Looking for something to listen to on your next road trip? You can now hear audio narrations of our most popular blog posts and website articles on a new app called Umano.

Remember books on tape? This is like that—only better, and with CSC’s content alongside other interesting articles from Forbes, Huffington Post, Vanity Fair and more.

Plus, all of the content is narrated by real people. No robots here!

From Umano: Umano is a leading mobile app that uses the power of human narration to make written content easily accessible and more enjoyable from everywhere, especially in the car. Users can listen to Umano’s ever-growing catalog of articles from the world’s best publishers and bloggers narrated by professional voice actors. This app is perfect for users who like podcasts, listen to audio books or prefer to consume other audio content on the go.

Here’s how to get Umano:

  • Click on “Have a promo code?” and enter CSUPPORT to get connected to the Cancer Support Community’s channel right away.
  •   Listen to our articles and other great content while you’re on the road, on a run, or whenever!

Let us know what you think, and what kinds of CSC content you’d like to see more of. We’ll be adding new articles each month.

Special thanks to Umano for helping us spread the word of our important resources!

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How recreation can be therapeutic during your cancer journey


Participants enjoy attending light exercise classes at CSC Greater Philadelphia

Since 1984, National Therapeutic Recreation Week has been celebrated the second week of July. Its purpose is to raise awareness and educate communities about activities available to boost the wellness of people living with physical, mental or emotional challenges.

Therapeutic recreation is the use of a wide range of activities such as painting, yoga, walking or playing music to help boost your everyday lifestyle. Founded by the National Therapeutic Recreation Society, this week cultivates a safe and supportive environment for people living with certain challenges to find activities they enjoy. Therapeutic Recreation may help enhance not only your activity levels, but also your overall quality of life. When you’re living with cancer, taking good care of your body, mind and spirit is more imperative than ever and therapeutic recreation is a great place to start.

Each person has different preferences and capabilities that make their healing process unique. Fortunately there are vast amounts of art, music and other creative activities that contribute a huge role to heal the emotional and mental state of an individual. Many of our affiliates offer such activities such as photography, painting, Tai chi and exercise programs.

Stress relief is another benefit of therapeutic recreation. Excessive amounts of stress can be very harmful and this week highlights the importance for individuals to keep themselves from risk. A study conducted by the Cancer Support Community’s Research and Training Institute has found that over half of people living with cancer have moderate to serious concerns about physical activity. Rather than eliminating physical activity, there are many programs that take into consideration your activity levels during and after treatment.

You can learn more about how to stay physically active by listening to our Frankly Speaking About Cancer radio show airing in early August with Carol Michaels, a fitness expert who specializes in exercises for cancer survivors.

How are you going to celebrate National Therapeutic Recreation Week? As the summer continues, be on the lookout for activities that will help boost your wellness. Talk to your health care team and ask for resources to get you started. Pour yourself into art or go on nature walks in the park and start to find your personal healing process and ways to express yourself in the midst of your cancer journey.

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Blogging, a journal of experience

Amy Brock is the author of Tata Wars, a blog about her journey with breast cancer

Amy Brock is the author of Tata Wars, a blog about her journey with breast cancer

After I was initially diagnosed with infiltrating (invasive) breast cancer, I began searching out information. I mean, I had to think about it. I had to find out more, right? The doctor’s appointments were scheduled quickly, but it was still going to be days and weeks before I really knew about my treatment options. I would go to the breast surgeon, who would send me to the oncologist, who would run tests all before even talking to me about my treatment options. There was all that time…to think, to question, to search.

Like most people wanting to find out more, before I even know what to ask, I began searching the Internet. The factual sites were helpful in explaining what the doctor’s large Latin words meant, but the best options to cope with cancer and the impeding side effects should be left to the experts. And while experts about treatment were my doctors, the experts about living with cancer were the individuals in the cancer fight.

The more I read other cancer blogs the more I began finding ideas to help prevent side effects and for potential inspiration. The blogs are full of heartache, strength and advice. Each person was willing to share what worked and did not work for them. My cancer experience was in full motion and I found that it was similar, yet different, from others. Everyone’s battle with cancer is unique. Everyone’s experience is their own. Who knows? I might help someone.

I was full of experiences, cancer had no problem providing them, but determining my blog name or concept was honestly one of the most challenging things. I am a child born in the 70s, so Star Wars is awesome! Hence the inspiration for my blog…I mean I was essentially a Jedi going to fight the evil cancer. I was determined to share my saga, Jedi training tips, Jedi battles. I believe that if I only inspire or help one person going through cancer, then it was worth it!

As a young girl I had written in a diary, I had those thoughts and feelings penned down under lock and key. Now I was sharing one of my most challenging life experiences with the world. The blog was like I unlocked the dairy and flipped open the pages for anyone to read. Instead of writing about a crush on some boy, I was sharing how I managed crazy side effects while still being a mom to two young children.

Over the past year I have gone through chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation and hormone therapy. It has been a whirlwind. If I sat down and tried to recall all of the things that happened, I do not think I could. There are times I will look back on blog posts and think did that really happen, did I really do that, and oh yeah, I forgot about that. The blog has become a personal journal, a memory holder of the past year.

While the original goal of the blog was to share my experiences with others, I gained so much more. I wanted a way to help someone else, to provide tips and a way to keep on finding humor in the craziness of cancer. I now have the option to look back at myself and see all of the things I have endured and survived and realized how much I have grown and learned during my cancer fight. The blog became more than a way to hopefully help others; it helped me.

Cancer survivor Amy Brock was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at 38. She has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, hormone therapy and other procedures since 2013. Amy began writing about her experiences as a way to help others on her blog, Tata Wars. Amy holds a BS in Organizational Management, BS in Information Technology and a MPH in Human Sexuality. Her MPH background has been a beneficial resource through her cancer experience.

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Clinical pathways in cancer care

The number of cancer survivors in the United States continues to increase. Concurrently, the focus of the U.S. health care system is shifting towards the value of care patients receive. To us in the cancer community, this means focusing on improving the quality of cancer care while also reining in the cost of care.

This issue is taking on increased significance. The National Cancer Institute estimates that medical costs for cancer were $125 billion in 2010, and that costs are projected to increase 39% by 2020, to a total of $173 billion per year. As a society we need to contend with the rising cost of care and make sure all cancer survivors will have access to the high quality cancer care they need.

As a result, new strategies are changing the way cancer care is delivered and paid for by Medicare and private health insurance plans. These strategies are generally well intentioned and aim to manage cost, but often lack transparency about how they are developed, what quality outcomes will be measured and what incentives they create for health care providers.

One example of a cancer payment system is “clinical pathways.” A clinical pathway is a plan of care the health care team is encouraged to follow when making treatment recommendations. Most clinical pathways are based on the results of clinical research and are therefore evidence-based treatment recommendations.

Government programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as commercial insurance plans are increasingly looking to clinical pathways in an attempt to standardize cancer care in order to reduce costs and improve the quality of that care.

The Cancer Support Community has published a position paper on the use of cost-containment measures which includes clinical pathways. In terms of clinical pathways in particular, we feel that:

  1. Clinical pathways should be based on evidence.
  2. Clinical pathways should not interfere with the ability of the health care team to provide personalized medicine.
  3. Data used for determining clinical pathways should be transparent, to both the health care team and patients.
  4. Patients should be informed of all options available and the risks and benefits associated with each, including medical, psychosocial and financial side effects.
  5. Patients should be informed of financial or other incentives to the health care team for following clinical pathways.
  6. Social and emotional support, including distress screening and care planning should be a fundamental part of all comprehensive, quality cancer care regardless of the clinical pathway and especially when the health care team is receiving reimbursement for care management.

If you or a loved one has cancer, it is important to be educated and empowered when having discussions with your care team about treatment decisions. In addition to the points above, keep in mind these key points during your conversations:

  • Specifically ask to discuss multiple treatment options if they are available – options that are both on and off pathways.
  • For each treatment option ask:
    • What is the evidence supporting the treatment?
    • Does the treatment option meet my goals of therapy for medical effectiveness, side effects and quality of life?
    • What is the overall cost of each treatment option to both me and my insurance provider?
    • What is the financial incentive for the provider to follow a particular treatment plan?
    • Request a cancer care plan that includes social and emotional support, including distress screening and follow up care, if needed, as part of your care expectations.

Again, it is critical that people with cancer are empowered to be partners in treatment decision making. For more information about tools to help with these discussions, the Cancer Support Community has created Open to Options, a treatment decision counseling program designed to help you create a personalized list of questions to discuss with your health care team. For more information about Open to Options, please visit www.cancersupportcommunity.org/open2options or call 1-888-793-9355.

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