What Helped (Or Is Helping) You Most During Cancer Treatment?
Here at Your simPal, we’re always interested to hear what people affected by cancer have to say. In the cancer sector, we tend to hear from those in positions of authority speaking on behalf of cancer patients, and only see the people at the heart of these issues through the filters of fundraising and marketing. But we believe that this limits the conversation, and means that as a society we miss out on the ideas, talent and insight of those who don’t have a platform - be that individuals or small charities. This is why on a #charitytuesday we often hold a Twitter chat for our lovely online community!
Last week, we wanted to know what it is that helps people most when they or a loved one are going through cancer treatment. There’s lots to say about gaps in cancer care, and the moments we are disappointed, but we thought it would be great (on this occasion) to think about the things that cheer us up. Those facing cancer are often told to “think positive”, but this doesn’t always come easily. So finding out what has helped others, and having a conversation about the joys in life, is something we hoped would have real value. And people had some really wonderful things to say!
Here are a few of the things they suggested:
If your cancer treatment involves chemotherapy, there’s a chance that your tastes will change, and it could become difficult to enjoy your favourite foods. Add to this a general feeling of nausea, and the whole idea of eating anything becomes pretty unpleasant! For some people, the effect on their taste buds means that stronger flavoured things are preferable - and in Chris and Kay’s case this seems to be sour boiled sweets and bitter fruity squash.
Chris Lewis, our charity co-founder along with Blair Papworth, was the first to jump in with his thoughts - which involved sherbet lemons (as all the best things do!).
And Kay definitely seemed to agree about sweet/sour things.
There’s lots of advice out there that recommends that cancer patients cut out sugar entirely, but this article from Cancer Research emphasizes the importance of not going on a drastic diet during treatment, and busts some of the sugar/cancer myths. Of course, everything in moderation - but if you find sweets help you out then there’s no reason to give them up, unless advised by your doctors. Have you found any particular foods that cheered you up during cancer treatment? Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @YoursimPal.
Chris Lewis described how music helped him feel better in this way... “Music is all about memories, people and special times. I found I could transport myself to a positive place, just by selecting certain tunes.”
...and pointed out a particular favourite in the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We think lots of people would empathise with idea, and one of the advantages of music is that - as well as being a way of cheering up and means of escape - it can also help us process our more negative feelings. What’s more, we absolutely love Kay’s “F**k Cancer” playlist - especially as it was a collaborative effort between her and her friends!
The wonderful Something To Look Forward To gets their daily boost from helping others - we can’t argue with that one!
Getting out and about
Emily, who helps people move forward from cancer through coaching and therapy, took comfort in a bit of retail therapy, and walking around Westfield during its quiet hours. We think it’s a great idea to treat yourself where you can (something the charities Something to Look Forward To and Ellie’s Friends can help with!) when you are unwell - even if it’s just a few smellies from Boots!
Cancer Carer Chats blogs about looking after her mum and supporting her through the treatment for Stage 4 ovarian cancer. She has lots of practical advice on what to cook for people with cancer, as well as a personal insight into the challenges carers face - reminding us that a cancer diagnosis changes the lives of not just those directly affected, but their loved ones too.
If you can, getting out for a walk as Cancer Carer Chats does with her mum seems to be a great way to lift your mood - even if it’s just getting some fresh air!
Mission Remission had the wonderful idea of exchanging letters with a few ‘cancer friends’, sharing worries and, of course, having a bit of a gossip. The organisation From Me to You encourages people to write letters and postcards to people affected by cancer, because getting a funny, caring or meaningful letter can make anyone smile. Letters are thoughtful, personal and can be read years later - rather than getting piled under thousands of everyday emails.
What’s more, handwriting a letter can be very expressive, allowing you to communicate your feelings more fully.
Cancer patients often have to get used to their “new normal”, especially as things rarely go back to exactly how they were before, even once treatment is over. However, being able to do the normal things - like driving - can be hugely uplifting when life has otherwise become dominated by cancer. This is something carers and family can keep in mind -- allowing their loved one to do what they can, where they can, should they wish to.
Mind you, while our Twitter friends seemed to like the idea of shopping trips, cooking and doing the washing up, no one seemed that keen on ironing - so perhaps keep that chore off the list!
Getting lost in the words of others through audiobooks and being read to was a popular option in this discussion. Novels and poetry can help us through so many difficult moments in life, and this series by Ella Risbridger (whose partner is currently recovering from complications that resulted from lymphoma) beautifully explores the poems which have most affected her.
Is there anything that helped you keep your chin up during cancer treatment? Or are you or a loved one going through treatment now and have some go-to mood brighteners you’d like to share? We’d love for you to let us know in the comments!