I want to take a moment to be serious. This post isn't about books and writing or other entertainment. It's about something that might save your life or the life of someone you love.
Once a year, I post the following.
Has cancer touched your life? It has mine. Just about everyone in my husband's family has died from a form of cancer.
Warning Signs of Cancer
- New lumps or growths on your skin
- A sore or bruise that does not heal
- A mole that changes in shape, size or colour or bleeds in unusual circumstances
- An ongoing cough or hoarseness that last longer than three weeks
- Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
- A change in bowel or bladder habits for no good reason
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
- Blood anywhere it normally shouldn't be – urine, bowel, spitting.
When something is wrong with your body, it gives you hints. Sometimes they're subtle. Sometimes they scream. If something is "off" or feels out of the ordinary, and this something continues more than a couple of weeks, pay attention. Your body is trying to send you a message.
2. If you think something is wrong, talk to a doctor who specializes in that part of the body.
My brother-in-law who passed away in 2015 after an 18-month battle with cancer had talked to his family doctor when he first started having difficulty swallowing. The general practitioner said, "Oh, that's nothing. We can fix that with diet and acid-reflux medication."
There's a reason the phrase "second opinion" was created. If my brother-in-law had sought a second opinion, his esophageal cancer might have been caught before it reached Stage 4. Always seek a second opinion--especially if you don't get better after a couple of weeks. If your problem is anything to do with your insides, don't wait too long to get that second opinion.
When we think something is wrong, we just want someone to assure us that it's not. That's the easy answer we all want. BUT, with cancer, you want the hard answer--the one that comes from a specialist who deals with problems associated with your particular issue, not a general practitioner who probably isn't familiar with subtle warning signs various cancers create.
3. When you know you'll be facing surgery/chemo/radiation or any kind of cancer treatment, assemble your home team that will help you survive.
Just as the surgeon assembles his team, you do the same. Line up the family and friends who can help you in whatever way you may need help. This might mean doing research to share with the rest of the time about what to expect after treatment. Maybe it's people to be companions when you need someone to drive you or keep you company when you're climbing the walls. Maybe it's to dine with so you won't eat alone. Or maybe someone to bring snacks and make sure you don't lose too much weight. All of this is especially true if the cancer patient is a man because men don't reach out for support the way women do.
When the patient is finally home after surgery, he or she needs someone there on a regular basis who will push the patient to eat even if they say they're not hungry or everything tastes bad. The team member must speak hope and optimism and healing and give the patient a vision of the future that will surely be achieved.
A team member should also listen carefully to the patient. If he's complaining about something several times, then there's something there that must be addressed. Unfortunately, when you're around someone who is going through an ordeal involving pain and serious medical treatment, it gets too easy to turn a deaf ear to what seems to be chronic aches and pains. You need to really listen and sort through what's being said. It's always a good idea for the patient or the primary caregiver to keep a journal of medication, treatment, medical complaints, etc.
Some people think it takes a village to raise a child, but I know it takes a village to survive cancer treatment.
It's not easy, but it's doable. Millions do it. So can you if it becomes necessary.
Take care of your health. Donate to cancer research. Charity Watch rates charities to see where the money actually goes. Click Cancer to find the best organizations that use your money for research, not expense accounts, salaries, etc. Always listen to your body.