Being able to survive any kind of cancer is wonderful and worth celebrating, although there still can be challenges ahead for residents of Maquoketa and elsewhere including the possibility of palliative care.
At Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice, we recognize that some cancer survivors may still have residual physical pain and other health conditions from their cancer treatment.
For instance, chemotherapy or radiation, which are both common treatment options, can still cause lingering problems in the body even after cancer is believed to have been removed. This can include nerve damage and neuropathy, burns, changes in appetite, loss or changes in hair, and more. Fatigue is also common as the body rebuilds itself.
Then there also can be mental and emotional trauma, including, in some, a fear that the cancer will return, or even return worse.
Some cancer survivors are eager to try something new now with their lives. A scary situation or health problems while recovering may have encouraged them to create a new outlook, try new things, and have new experiences.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there are about 16.9 million people who have survived cancer to some degree, which works out to about 5 percent of the total population.
The institute also said there is an increase in survival rates. The number has risen to about 33 percent who have lived 5 years or more. This works out to be 15.1 percent of the population.
Learning to feel better
Being able to survive cancer can open the doors for a different type of care: palliative care. This approach focuses entirely on their patient’s quality of life as the prime goal, rather than a traditional focus like “we need to explore something” or “we need to cure something.”
Traditional care may lead to painful treatment options or even various uncertain methods as people may be used as experiments.
Instead, with palliative care, the goal is to focus on relieving pain and improving quality of life.
Palliative care can also take the form of focused pain management, where medication is prescribed mostly to help pain and keep people lucid rather than something that will be painful and will likely have side effects but is intended to try to treat certain symptoms.
Another common example of palliative care is sending a patient home to recover there instead of in the hospital for an extended period of time. Being in their own environment is definitely less stressful than trying to recover in a sometimes noisy hospital environment where people are constantly poking and prodding.
Some patients undergoing palliative care are able to recover and recuperate. Sometimes, just undergoing this type of care without the stress of traditional medicine and traditional expectations can create a more helpful situation for recovery.
At the same time, however, palliative care for someone fighting cancer shouldn’t be thought of as a cure – it’s a different approach to management that may or may not have a different outcome than traditional care and traditional cancer treatment methods.
But the approach to quality of life is part of its appeal rather than the more invasive treatments where people get high doses of chemo chemicals or radiation over months.
Time to celebrate
If you’ve been battling cancer or a loved one has, this month is a perfect opportunity to celebrate and reflect.
While cancer itself isn’t worth celebrating, it’s important for those who have been through it to find any reason to celebrate.
That’s part of the appeal of National Cancer Survivors Day, an annual celebration each June that’s designed to be a tribute to those have survived cancer, as a way to inspire people who have received cancer diagnoses recently, and to support friends, family and other loved ones whose lives have been touched by cancer. It brings awareness to the struggles that everyone in the cancer community is facing, and shows that happiness can be found after a diagnosis or cancer treatment.
The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation has been organizing this event and gathering sponsors for this special day for the last 33 years. It also encourages cancer support groups in different communities around the country to plan their own smaller events to spread the word and inspire others.
This year, the event took place on June 7 but the available info and support are both available all month long or longer.
Although some traditional live events had to be canceled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, survivors and others are encouraged to celebrate as well as they can, even if it means putting messages on social media or contacting people via video chat.
If you’d like to learn more about palliative care, your local provider can discuss local options or where to get your questions answered.
Declaring “I’d like to learn more” can lead to a whole team being activated who all specialize in palliative care. This can include physicians, nurses, social workers, and others who understand and appreciate the nature of this type of care.