Empower Yourself During Your Cancer Journey
Okay, so you’re sitting in your doctor’s office, or an endoscopy suite or a clinic. You just heard the phrase “cholangiocarcinoma” followed by “cancer” or some variation on this theme. I can guarantee you that everything in your life that happens after this will be colored by this single experience. You will never forget this day, this moment, those words.
While you, or a loved one or friend may be feeling overwhelmed right about now, you will get through this. It won’t be easy, but you have to believe you will get through this and be steeled up for a fight. One of the ways to feel like you have control in what otherwise might be an uncontrollable situation is to decide that you are in charge of this battle. You will work with your doctors to determine the best course of therapy after discussing all options available. You will decide that you are not going to let this cancer define you; You are not a cancer victim but a person who happens to have cancer. Give yourself some time to grieve and to lose it – I did, I think everyone I’ve ever talked to who has fought a cancer battle has – but then you have to get psyched up for a fight and have the strength of will to give it everything you’ve got.
Lean on your friends, your family, your faith – whatever it takes. If you have acquaintances who act like “downers” and want to start planning your funeral services, tell them so long for now and focus on those around you who are going to stand by your side during this battle. Let those close to you know that you need their support and encouragement, because on more than one occasion during this battle – either during chemotherapy, surgery, follow up screening or radiation treatment – you will need tremendous support and encouragement.
It is natural to get worn down from the process. I know, I’ve been there and no doubt there will be times when I’ll be there again. In fact one thing that I have found helpful is to allow myself one day a month to just lose it. Once I gave myself permission to do this, I found myself not needing that one day but every two months or so. I can’t remember the last one of these days I had.
The other thing that you can do as a patient or caregiver is to educate yourself about your cancer and your treatment. I can’t stress this enough. Now I know anyone (myself included) who has a background in the health care field is at a bit of an advantage because of a familiarity with terminology and processes. But thanks to the plethora of resources available on the internet and even at your local library, anyone can learn about their cancer and treatment options. Education is key to understanding your disease and partnering with your medical team in battling your disease.
There is so much information out there it can be overwhelming but you have to stick with it and discern what is crap and what is fact, what applies to you and your particular diagnosis and what doesn’t. Never before have so many resources been available to patients battling this cancer. And like with many other cancers, treatments and surgical options are evolving constantly, so often what is first to show up in an internet search engine is already dated and may not apply. It takes some digging to find what is cutting edge, what was recently presented at ASCO and what was recently published that shows success in treating CCA.
Keep fighting and share your success stories with others through the comments section!
“Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” –paraphrased from Mark Twain