A serious illness often causes practical and financial difficulties. You don't need to face these alone.
Many services are available to help including:
- Financial assistance, through benefits and pensions (such as Medicare and Centrelink), can help pay for the cost of prescription medicines through the issue of a health care card.
- For people living in rural or regional areas, financial assistance may be available for travel to and from medical appointments.
Ask to speak to a social worker who will be able to provide you with more information about the services which are available to you. Social Workers provide emotional support through counselling and other services. They can also help with practical issues like accommodation, transport, legal and financial matters, accessing community and government support.
Concord Hospital - Social Workers 02 9767 6680
Source - Cancer Council NSW
Although it will be difficult, you should consider the legal issues and consider doing the following:
Naming a power of attorney: A power of attorney will make decisions about your treatment if you are not able to decide for yourself, for example, if you are in a coma. Talk to your partner, family and/or a close friend about nominating your power of attorney.
Writing a Will: It is important to complete a Will so that you get to decide who receives your possessions and property. Your Will can also contain funeral instructions. It is best to draw up a Will while you are feeling well.
Preparing a living Will or an advanced care directive: This will state whether or not you wish to be kept alive by artificial means or resuscitated if you stop breathing. Discuss this with your partner, family and/or a close friend, and give a copy to your treatment team.
You may also need to discuss with your partner, family and/or close friends:
- How any children you have under 18 years of age will be cared for.
- Your wishes about your funeral and burial arrangements.
- Your preference about dying at home or in a hospice, palliative care unit or hospital.
Your thoughts may change over time, so it is good to keep others informed of any changes.
Source - Cancer Council NSW
There are wigs available for hire on Fridays from Concord Hospital for patients of the Concord Cancer Centre. If you are interested in this program ask a member of staff or please call Medical Oncology Reception on 02 9767 7093.
Getting to and from regular hospital appointments can be a challenging task. Concord Cancer Centre has access to a few transport schemes which may assist with you.
The social work department can also assist with access to applications for taxi vouchers and community transport, they can also support you to complete those applications.
Good nutrition is needed for general health and is particularly important if you are ill. During this time, it is important that you give your body the food and nourishment it needs for energy, repair of normal tissue, and to help keep your immune system strong.
The side effects of commonly used cancer treatments (like chemotherapy and radiation therapy) place extra demands on your body for energy and nutrients. At the same time the side effects of these treatments and the cancer itself can affect your normal eating patterns, reducing your desire for food and your ability to eat the amount or type of food you normally would.
Side effects and their severity can vary from person to person depending on the type of disease involved, the treatment used and how an individual responds.
General tips for eating well
- Have small, frequent meals, and eat by the clock (e.g. every two hours) rather than three large meals.
- Maximise the times when appetite is best.
- Snacking between meals can often add up; always have snacks ready to eat.
- Prepare food that smells good to you. If you find you are overwhelmed by cooking smells stay away from the kitchen at this time or close doors to keep food smells away. A friend or relative may be able to help out by preparing food for you.
- Make food visually appealing by using attractive colours and garnishes.
- Make your mealtime pleasant by sharing it with family and friends. Avoid talking about your treatment at mealtimes.
- It is important not to miss meals, so plan ahead. If you are likely to be waiting for treatment/appointments, take a snack/drink with you.
- If preparing meals becomes difficult, keep a supply of ready-to-eat foods handy. Many sections of the supermarket have single serve ready-to-eat items. Look in the diary, frozen food, soup and canned food sections.
- Have frequent sips of nourishing fluids during the day such as milk and juices rather than tea and coffee.
- If your doctor allows, have a small glass of wine or beer prior to the meal. It may help to stimulate your appetite.
- Gentle exercise, such as walking before meal times, may help to stimulate hunger.
Dieticians can help
Contact your doctor, dietitian or nurse if:
- You are having problems with swallowing or have a prolonged loss of appetite
- You have had unexpected weight loss.
Contact the dietician at Concord via the main switchboard on 02 9767 5000 or talk to your GP.
Content (Nutrition section) - Peter Mac Victoria and Cancer Council and Leukaemia Foundation
Being diagnosed with cancer can be one of the most difficult situations that anyone has to face. It can cause great fear and worry, and can affect every aspect of your life, including your ability to work.
Many cancers can be cured. But the tests and treatments needed for cancer may mean spending some time in hospital. Treatments may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, or other drugs that can cause unpleasant side effects.
The symptoms of cancer or the side effects of treatment may reduce your ability to work. For some people this will be temporary but for others it may be permanent. Some people may need to make changes to their work, such as changing patterns of work or working from home.
People have different views about work. For some, it is the centre of their lives and they would feel lost without it. For others, it's a means to an end: something they would give up if they could.
For some people, cancer and its treatment will be a challenge; something to get through so they can get back to their normal life, including work. For other people, it will be an opportunity to rethink their lives and consider retraining, retiring or taking early retirement.
Working during treatment
Some people choose to carry on working, either full-time or part-time, during their treatment. Some people need to carry on working as much as possible for financial reasons.
Before treatment, it's often difficult to know exactly how the treatment may affect you and it will help to let your employer know this, so that they are aware you may need to change your work plans at short notice.
If your employer knows that you have cancer they can help you by providing support and giving you information about your rights. They can also make sure that you have time off if you need it and that you get all the financial help and benefits you are entitled to. You can talk directly to your employer, your human resources manager or occupational health department, your trade union, or all four.
If carrying on as normal is important for you, you should say this to your employer so that they can support you in continuing with your work. However, if you can't go on working normally because of the cancer or its treatment, then let your employer know. Arrangements can then be made to alter your work or give you time off if necessary.
Source - Macmillan UK
It's important to realise that cancer is not a single disease with a single cause and a single type of treatment. There are more than 100 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.
Cancer may have specific effects on the body, and in some people may cause specific physical problems depending on the part of the body that is affected.
Some examples are:
- Lung cancer can cause a cough or breathlessness.
- A cancer that has spread into the lymph glands may cause swelling of a part of the body by blocking the flow of lymph fluid through the affected lymph glands. This is known as lymphoedema.
- Cancer in a bone may make the bone weak, and increase the chance of it breaking (a fracture).
These physical problems or disabilities may make travelling difficult.
Travelling when undergoing treatments
Treatments that are commonly used for people with cancer include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Treatment may be aimed at curing a cancer, or at controlling it for as long as possible to give the best quality of life.
Cancer treatment may also have effects on the body and can cause short-term problems such as sickness, diarrhoea or sensitivity to the sun. Occasionally, treatments can cause long-term physical problems, such as swelling of a limb.
Some treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause extreme tiredness (fatigue) both during and after treatment. The tiredness may limit the type of travel you can do, or the amount of activity you can manage while you are away.
Some types of surgery for cancer may cause a permanent physical change to the body, for example:
- Removal and creation of a colostomy or ileostomy
- Removal of a breast (mastectomy)
- Removal of another part of the body.
Your stoma care nurse specialist can give you advice regarding travel insurance, certificates, supplies and dietary issues while you are away.
Sometimes it's possible to have a holiday while you are still in the middle of treatment for example, between courses of treatment. In this situation it's very important to discuss things with your doctor beforehand, so that you can plan the best time for your holiday.
You can take this chance to talk through any possible problems and how to deal with them if they occur.
Source - Macmillan UK
Many people with cancer live alone but have the companionship of a pet. Looking after a pet can become a problem if you have to go into hospital for treatment, or into a nursing or residential home if you are less able to cope because of the cancer or its treatment.
This can be a very distressing time and many pet owners worry about who will look after their pet when they cannot, or who will care for their pet if they should die. There are arrangements you can make for your pets while you are in hospital, or if you become unable to care for them.
Who can help with caring for your pets?
It is always a good idea to check with neighbours, relatives and friends who live close by to see if they can help you out, as your pet is more likely to know and trust them. They may be able to 'pop in' to feed your pet and provide extra care, such as walking your dog.
Relatives and friends who live further away may also be able to help. It might be possible for them to care for your pet at their home, although this will take more planning and will not always be suitable.
Your local vet may be able to help as they might know of, or provide, a volunteer support scheme. This is where volunteers visit your home to care for your pet, or temporarily look after your pet in their own home while you are in hospital. Your vet might also know of animal shelters in your area that may be able to help or contact the RSPCA.
Social workers may be able to give you advice about care of your pet while you are in hospital.
Source - Macmillan UK