A diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming and frightening. Knowing what to expect can help allay some of those fears. If you have been diagnosed with lymphoma, you can prepare for your doctor’s visit by bringing your medical records and financial and insurance information. It is a good idea to arrange to have somebody accompany you – a lot of new information will be provided and it helps to have someone taking notes. Read about treatment options beforehand – knowing more about your disease will enable you to ask your doctor intelligent questions. Make a list of questions you have for your doctor. During your appointment, you should expect to meet a physician who is an expert in your disease – this will be either a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases of the blood cells) or an oncologist (a doctor who specializes in cancer). They will typically examine you and review your test results. The physician’s team will discuss the recommended treatment options with you and answer any questions you may have. They will give you a schedule of appointments for your chemotherapy and radiotherapy. You should expect the visit to last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. Lymphoma and its treatment will be explained to you in a way that you can understand. You should be involved in decisions about your care and your preferences will be respected.
WHAT SHOULD I ASK MY DOCTOR?
It is natural for you to have lots of questions and feel overwhelmed. The following questions may be a useful starting point:
- What type of lymphoma do I have? How quickly is it growing?
- Where is the lymphoma in my body?
- What kind of treatment do you recommend? What are the alternatives to this treatment?
- What are the pros and cons of the different treatments?
- Will having other illnesses affect my treatment? Will the lymphoma or its treatment affect other illnesses or conditions I have?
- How often will I need to come to hospital to have treatment? Will I need to stay overnight?
- What long- and short-term side effects should I anticipate?
- How high is the risk of developing long-term side effects?
- Who do I contact if I feel unwell or run a high temperature when I am at home between treatments?
HOW CAN I LIVE WITH LYMPHOMA?
A diagnosis of lymphoma is difficult to cope with practically, emotionally, and physically. These tips may help you weather the storm:
- Continue looking good to keep feeling good. Ask about wigs and head coverings for chemotherapy-associated hair loss.
- Seek out nutritional information and diets for people with decreased immune function.
- Sign up for classes and events like yoga and relaxation, bible study, and support groups.
- Reach out to friends for help.
- Focus on your strengths.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Try to keep exercising and eating well.
- Maintain your social life as much as you can.
- Rely on your sense of humor.
- Find a support group.
- Seek professional help from a mental health counselor.
- Seek spiritual renewal.
IS THIS THE END?
It is not the end. A diagnosis of cancer can be downright paralysing. Fear, anxiety, sadness, and depression are some of the emotions you will struggle with. To help you and your family through this challenging time, many avenues for emotional and spiritual support are available, including support groups, social workers, mental health counselors, and online social networks, and you should not hesitate to reach out for help. People from all walks of life are going through trials and tribulations very similar to yours. Online forums are available for questions, answers, advice, support, and information in a more informal, relaxed, and conversational setting than your doctor’s office. Widen your support network so you can benefit from the insight, experience, and wisdom of those suffering the same hard knocks in the school of life. Life is unforeseeable. Hard times strike everyone. No one’s journey is easy. Stay resilient. Don’t let your cancer define you, destroy you, deter you, or defeat you. From adversity, great men and women are born.