In addition to the organizational tips I previously posted, there are more ways to get prepared to help make you and your caregivers’ lives a little easier. For starters, you will need to focus on getting well, getting rest, and getting to your appointments on time and let the household chores take a back seat (even the get well cards will tell you this.) Making some arrangements to take care of the household stuff and doing a little homework before treatment starts will take some of the stress away.
If you can’t stand the thought of dust or cobwebs, arrange for a housekeeper or assign that chore to another member of your household so you can rest and not worry about it. Same goes for all household chores. If getting somebody else to clean and do chores is not possible, learn to live with a little dust. You will have much more important things to worry about anyways than whether or not someone can write their name on your coffee table in the dust. Visitors are there to see you, and anyone who comments on appearances is more than welcome to pick up a dust rag or push a mower.
During treatment and perhaps for a while afterwards you probably won’t feel like eating at times let alone cooking, and I know that my preference was to relegate both of those tasks to the back burner so that I could get more sleep. Yet you do need to keep your nutritional and caloric levels up. You need the ammunition not only to fight the cancer, but to repair your body and keep your strength up. While you can still cook, make extra batches of your favourite foods and freeze them for future meals. Arrange for someone to take over kitchen duty, including your kids and/or significant other even if it’s out of their comfort zone. My husband learned how to make his own cheese danish, ribs, steaks & caesar salads, buffalo chicken wraps, and the like.
As for shopping, ask a neighbour to pick up a few things for you on their next trip to the grocery store. Visitors can bring meals and pick up a few necessities for you on their way over.
Speaking of visitors, there will be times when you really won’t want to see anybody, but a lot of people will want to visit you anyways to see how you’re doing. Let everyone know ahead of time that there will be times when you won’t want any company, and if they insist on coming anyways, tell them you’re not doing any entertaining. Don’t be afraid of saying no, or better yet enlist their help for some routine household chores.
If you’re undergoing treatment for any cancer and eating or swallowing will become a challenge, consider getting your prescriptions changed to liquid, chewable, crushable, or sublingual forms. My throat cancer was affecting my ability to swallow, and treatment worsened it to the point where I couldn’t swallow solids at all. Having medications ready to go in easy-to-swallow forms, ahead of when I would actually need it, really saved the day.
Since you’re going to be speaking with your pharmacist anyways, why not ask them if they can deliver your prescriptions. Many pharmacies offer a delivery service at no or low cost.
Contact your local community care, cancer society, church society, etc to see if they are able to provide any assistance. They might provide services for dog walking, rides to church, treatments or appointments, meal or food delivery, in-home nursing care, accompaniment to appointments, run errands, etc. It doesn’t hurt to ask what help is available to you.
Make arrangements to have someone else take you to or from your treatments. For me personally there was no way I was in any condition to drive. You may feel the same way during your treatments, and in fact your Doctor may not allow you to drive.
Create a personal kit to take with you. I had a long commute to my treatments and clinic appointments (more than 80 kilometres/50 miles one way) and sometimes I had long, unanticipated procedures such as magnesium infusions. My husband came up with the idea to create a hospital/traveling kit of the necessities. He filled a backpack with barf bags and tissues, the list of current medications, phone charger (we used a USB portable battery bank instead so we didn’t have to search for electrical outlets), water bottle and any medications that I would require throughout the day such as pain medication or anti-nauseants. Bring a book, snack or lunch if allowed, lip balm and comb/brush. Include feminine hygiene products or incontinence supplies if required. Bring any parking passes, medical cards (such as OHIP or insurance benefit cards), the location of your treatment, and a log to keep track of expenses and mileage if you think you may be eligible to claim those.
Be prepared to spend some money on purchases that aren’t covered under benefits plans. You may need special creams to soothe your skin affected by radiation, specialty pillows to prop you up comfortably in bed or on the sofa (I needed a $200 wedge pillow to stop me from drowning in my own congestion), incontinence supplies, over-the-counter medications such as laxatives, bed-side trays or TV trays, and the like. Forewarned is forearmed.
Last word of advice: learn what your side-effects might be and do what you can to prepare for it. For example, one side effect that I experienced was that I lost my voice. I knew that I would lose it ahead of time and learned how to sign “tea I want” (yes that’s how you sign it) and a few other simple phrases.
Remember, prepare as much as you can ahead of time and off-load as much as humanly possible! Rest! Focus on getting well!
Next: Fuel the fire to fight your cancer!