Fighting cancer is a team effort: 4 tips for “partnering up” with your medical team

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stephanie Hastings

This post was contributed by Stephanie Hastings, Dallas-based photographer, artist, mother, activist, hockey-lover and breast cancer fighter.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is quite overwhelming. There are many thoughts and fears that will go through your mind when that happens. I know that was true for me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of 2011, I was overcome with the same fear as anyone would be.

I am an artist, a photographer, a mother, a friend, a lover and an activist. One thing that I wasn’t sure I was prepared for was the role of cancer fighter. There is a lot to have to take in and understand – but no one is an island. No one fights cancer alone.

Throughout my cancer experience I’ve learned that fighting cancer is a team effort. In order to have the best chance of success, I turned to my friends and family for support and, most importantly, I partnered with my oncologist, surgeons and nurses.

That extensive medical team is there to help so I jumped in with both feet and knew that a strong alliance was of most importance.

Various ways in which you can partner up, include:

  1. Be completely honest with your doctors. I told my oncologist everything. I shared every symptom, side effect, concern and more. I always kept him informed of everything I was doing on my end to get better. Any supplements I was taking or books that I was reading – he knew about it. This is vital. Open communication is a key to success. If the quarterback and the receiver don’t know what each other’s plans are, you can’t score a touchdown.
  2. Keep a notebook handy. Write down questions, concerns or thoughts and take this notebook with you to every appointment. You will get forgetful so a notebook or memo pad is going to help tremendously.
  3. Be active in the research of your cancer. Become a student of the disease. There are countless books out there that can help you understand experiences, nutrition aspects, lifestyle changes, fitness and more. Soak this information up and use it to help you beat the disease. Talk about what you’ve learned with your doctor. Knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, the more powerful you are over cancer.
  4. Do your part. The doctors and nurses do a lot for you and you will have your share of medicines and treatments coming from them. Remember this: fighting cancer is not restricted to just the cancer center. The chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and more are not the only lines of defense in beating cancer. They’re just segments of the efforts. Partnering with your doctors means that you are doing some work, too. Don’t be afraid of it. Evaluate your nutrition and make lifestyle changes that are necessary. Quit smoking. Eat more nutritionally sound. Add in light exercise (when you can) and partake in efforts like writing or art to help get the stress of the disease out of you. The whole body is intertwined within the effort to beat cancer so don’t ignore the whole body’s needs.

By partnering with your medical team and being an active participant in the fight against cancer, you’re giving yourself the best chance to beat it and make the lifestyle changes necessary to have hope for years in the future.


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  • Nancysonthego

    You are such an inspiration!!  Great wisdom Stephanie!!!