Cancer that returns can affect all parts of your life. You may feel weak and no longer in control. But you don't have to feel that way. You can take part in your care and in making decisions. You can also talk with your health care team and loved ones as you decide about your care. This may help you feel a sense of control and well-being.
Talking With Your Health Care Team
Many people have a treatment team of health providers who work together to help them. This team may include doctors, nurses, oncology social workers, dietitians, or other specialists. Some people don't like to ask about treatment choices or side effects. They think that doctors don't like being questioned. But this is not true. Most doctors want their patients to be involved in their own care. They want patients to discuss concerns with them.
Here are a few topics you may want to discuss with your health care team:
* Pain or Other Symptoms
Be honest and open about how you feel. Tell your doctors if you have pain and where. Tell them what you expect in the way of pain relief. (See Chapter 4 for more about pain and other symptoms).
Some people want to know details about their care. Others prefer to know as little as possible. Some people with cancer want their family members to make most of their decisions. What would you prefer? Decide what you want to know, how much you want to know, and when you've heard enough. Choose what is most comfortable for you. Then tell your doctor and family members. Ask that they follow through with your wishes.
* Family Wishes
Some family members may have trouble dealing with cancer. They don't want to know how far the disease has advanced. Find out from your family members how much they want to know. And be sure to tell your doctors and nurses. Do this as soon as possible. It will help avoid conflicts or distress among your loved ones.
Other Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Team
"You need a notebook because you go in there and they're telling you things, and you're so scared that you don't really listen. Then you get home, and you can't even remember what they said."- Jake
* Speak openly about your needs, questions, and concerns. Don't be embarrassed to ask your doctor to repeat or explain something.
* Keep a file or notebook of all the papers and test results that your doctor has given you. Take this file to your visits. Also keep records or a diary of all your visits. List the drugs and tests you have taken. Then you can refer to your records when you need to. Many patients say this is helpful, especially when you meet with a new doctor for the first time.
* Write down your questions before you see your doctors so you will remember them.
* Ask a family member or friend to go to the doctor's office with you. They can help you ask questions to get a clear sense of what to expect. This can be an emotional time. You may have trouble focusing on what the doctor says. It may be easier for someone else to take notes. Then you can review them later.
* Ask your doctor if it's okay to tape-record your talks.
* Tell your doctor if you want to get dressed before talking about your results. Wearing a gown or robe is distracting for some patients. They find it harder to focus on what the doctor is saying.
There are many treatment choices for recurrent cancer. Your treatment will depend partly on the type of cancer and the treatment you had before. It will also depend on where the cancer has recurred. For example: