Fremont Area Medical Center

SUM 2013

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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C ancer doesn't define you. As doctors increasingly adopt a holistic approach to cancer treatment that combines medical procedures with activities and psychological support, they're discovering that patients can benefit from remembering there's life beyond their disease. In fact, paying attention to the nonmedical aspects of your life can often help treatment go more smoothly, say experts. "If they are able, I encourage people [with cancer] to maintain as much of a normal life routine as possible," says Dr. Kerry Williams-Wuch, a hematology/oncology physician affiliated with McKee Medical Center, Loveland, Colo. "As much as you are able, keep doing the things you enjoy doing. Keep working, keep going to social events. Try to stay active." SEEKING SUPPORT It's also important to surround yourself with people who are supportive during the course of treatment, explains Dr. Kazumi Chino, who practices radiation oncology at Franciscan St. Elizabeth Health in Lafayette, Ind. You might find your support network through your family, friends or an organized cancer support group, but the bottom line is that connecting with people will show you that you're not alone in your battle. "I hear from my patients all the time about how they had a friend or family member who helped them through their difficult time," Dr. Chino says. "We tend to not like to talk about things like cancer in our society, but once you're diagnosed, you see people come out of the woodwork and say, 'I had cancer too, and here's my story.' People don't realize how many survivors are around them until they are diagnosed themselves." Dr. Chino says she encourages patients to take advantage of resources at their hospital or within their religious organi- zation. Many hospitals and churches offer organized cancer support groups, or they can put you in touch with one. "I think people can be very reluctant to ask for help," Dr. Chino says. "But when you are sick, that type of support is key to helping you feel better. Letting your loved ones help you is actually doing them a favor. If you let them, they can help you stay strong and fight the illness." ASK ABOUT NEW TREATMENTS As much as emotional support can help the course of physical treatment, the reverse can also be true. New medical treatments for various types of cancer provide new hope, and you should make sure your doctors are keeping you up to date on the latest options. "A cancer diagnosis can come with a lot of anxiety, depression and fear," says Dr. Korathu Thomas, who practices internal medicine at Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center in Chicago. "So the first thing we want to do is spend a lot of time letting patients know that there are many things available within the course of treatment. We want to make sure the patients are comfortable with their treatment plans and confident in what we're aiming to do." When a specific treatment doesn't succeed, that failure can become a major psychological hurdle for the patient to overcome. Dr. Thomas says he likes to view such situations not as setbacks but as opportunities to take treatment in another direction. "At times, treatments do fail, but the biggest thing is to make sure we're staying within the treatment plan and not abandoning it if a particular treatment path doesn't work," he says. Aggressive medical therapies can also help boost the patient's quality of life during the treatment course. New drugs are available, for example, to help combat the loss of energy from radiation treatments and the nausea of chemotherapy. MAINTAINING QUALITY OF LIFE Dr. Chino says she regrets that the term "palliative care" has become misunderstood as meaning only end-of-life therapies. Palliative care—treatment that is concerned with maintaining a patient's quality of life—can take place concurrently with radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments to battle the disease itself. "When people hear 'palliative care,' they associate that with treatment for when you're getting ready to die," she says. "But we've seen many instances where palliative care has helped to extend the lives of patients. If we're taking care of a patient's comfort and basic human needs, it's often more effective than undergoing chemo by itself. Don't disregard it, even if it's supporting a more aggressive treatment for the cancer itself. That, along with a diet, exercise and support plan, is what helps make care more holistic." • w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m S U M M E R 2 013 SPI RIT O F WOM EN SHUTTERSTOCK You'll benefit from remembering there's life beyond the disease. 11

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