1. Looking After Yourself
These therapies are used with conventional medical treatments. You may have therapies such as massage, relaxation and acupuncture to increase your sense of control, decrease stress and anxiety, and improve your mood. Let your doctor know about any therapies you are using or thinking about trying, as some may not be safe or evidence-based.
Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional medical treatments. These therapies, such as coffee enemas and magnet therapy, can be harmful. For more information, call 13 11 20 for a free copy of the Understanding Complementary Therapies booklet or visit your local Cancer Council website.
Looking after yourself
Cancer can cause physical and emotional strain. It’s important to try to look after your wellbeing as much as possible.
Eating healthy food can help you cope with treatment and side effects. A dietitian can help you manage special dietary needs or eating problems, and choose the best foods for your situation. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for a free copy of the Nutrition and Cancer booklet.
Physical activity may help to reduce tiredness, improve circulation and elevate mood. The amount and type of exercise you do depends on what you are used to, how you feel, and your doctor’s advice. Cancer Council’s Exercise for People Living with Cancer booklet provides more information about the benefits of exercise, and outlines simple exercises that you may want to try.
2. Relationships with others
Relationships with others
Having cancer can affect your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This may be because cancer is stressful, tiring and upsetting, or as a result of more positive changes to your values, priorities, or outlook on life.
Give yourself time to adjust to what’s happening, and do the same for others. People may deal with the cancer in different ways, for example by being overly positive, playing down fears, or keeping a distance. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with each other.
3. Sexuality, intimacy and cancer
Sexuality, intimacy and fertility
Cancer can affect your sexuality in physical and emotional ways. The impact of these changes depends on many factors, such as treatment and side effects, your self confidence, and if you have a partner.
Although sexual intercourse may not always be possible, closeness and sharing can still be part of your relationship.
If you are able to have sex, you may be advised to use certain types of contraception to protect your partner or avoid pregnancy for a certain period of time. Your doctor will talk to you about the precautions to take. They will also tell you if treatment will affect your fertility permanently or temporarily. If having children is important to you, talk to your doctor before starting treatment.
4. Life after treatment
For most people, the cancer experience doesn’t end on the last day of treatment. Life after cancer treatment can present its own challenges. You may have mixed feelings when treatment ends, and worry if every ache and pain means the cancer is coming back.
Some people say that they feel pressure to return to ‘normal life’, but they don’t want life to return to how it was before cancer. Take some time to adjust to the physical and emotional changes, and reestablish a new daily routine at your own pace.
Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who have had cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living well after cancer.
Dealing with feelings of sadness
If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you pleasure, you may be experiencing depression.
After treatment, you will need regular check-ups to monitor your health and confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back.
What if the cancer returns?
For some people, head and neck cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a relapse or a recurrence.
5. Seeking support
Cancer may cause you to experience a range of emotions, such as fear, sadness, anxiety, anger or frustration. It can also cause practical and financial problems.
Practical and financial help
There are many services that can help deal with practical or financial problems caused by the cancer. Benefits, pensions and programs can help pay for prescription medicines, transport costs or utility bills.
Home care services, aids and appliances can also be arranged to help make life easier
Ask the hospital social worker which services are available in your local area and if you are eligible to receive them.
Talk to someone who’s been there
Coming into contact with other people who have had similar experiences to you can be beneficial. You may feel supported and relieved to know that others understand what you are going through and that you are not alone.
People often feel they can speak openly and share tips with others who have gone through a similar experience.
You may find that you are comfortable talking about your diagnosis and treatment, relationships with friends and family, and hopes and fears for the future. Some people say they can be even more open and honest in these support settings because they aren’t trying to protect their loved ones.
Types of support
There are many ways to connect with others for mutual support and to share information.
- face-to-face support groups – often held in community centres or hospitals
- telephone support groups – facilitated by trained counsellors
- peer support programs – match you with someone who has had a similar cancer experience, e.g. Cancer Connect.
- online forums – such as cancerconnections.com.au.
Talk to your nurse, social worker or Cancer Council about what is available in your area.