Talking about it

Most people find they need help in learning to live with advanced cancer. It can be hard to share your feelings, and it can also be hard to know what words to use about your condition.

Finding the words that feel right for you can help you to talk about your situation. Keep trying until you find the sort of help that works for you.

Although you may not be in the habit of talking about your personal concerns, you may, at some stage, want to tell someone – a nurse, your doctor, or a counsellor – how it feels. Others may prefer to describe their feelings in writing.

Support groups

Many people are greatly helped by joining a support group.

“It’s good to be able to get together and just talk, like the support group I go to, where we were all living with secondary breast cancer. We can share our experiences, our different treatments, and the effect it is having on us.” Lyn

If you find a group that’s right for you, you may benefit from the close bonds with the other support group members.

People talk of the strength they have found in sharing feelings and facing reality. They also talk about the laughter that’s a big part of any group. For more information see 'Directory of services'.

Groups are not for everyone, but are a support that is worth considering.

Taking care of yourself

In the book Handbook for Mortals the authors Joanne Lynn and Joan Harrold describe the importance of taking care of yourself. This can be as simple as eating healthy food, exercising within your limits, and getting enough rest. It can also be doing the things you really enjoy, such as carrying on with your work if you are able, and helping others when you can.

Having fun is an important part of self-care. The value of humour as a therapy is increasingly recognised. Getting together with close friends to share memories and reminisce over photographs of good times together can be very enjoyable. Watching a comedy on TV or a funny DVD or reading an amusing book can be both a great diversion and good for your health.

“I hang on to my favourite daydream in which I receive a call from the oncologist who apologises profusely for misdiagnosing my condition. In this dream she tells me that, basically, all I have is a form of internal dandruff.” Bridget

Maybe you might find a new creative challenge – art, music, or writing. Some people find creating something for their family’s future very satisfying. You may choose to write your life story, or record your values, hopes, beliefs, and wisdom as a legacy of your life.

Telling ourselves the stories

“Those fabulous opening words, ‘Once Upon a Time’, never fail to cast their spell on me. I let go of everything else in my head, and settle into the story being told. That same magic is there when we tell our cancer story.

This alchemy operates on many levels. It informs others and, more importantly perhaps, informs us as well – sometimes it’s not till we write the words on a page that we (and others) realise the intensity of the journey we’re travelling.

There is the magic of putting words on a page, words which affirm, strengthen, and shed light. There are things we can tell – the story that we’ve never told anyone else, sometimes never thought about till we find the freedom of writing about them.

There is also a kind of triumph. We’ve told the story, the words are there – they will last longer than we do, will be part of the huge patchwork of stories which speak of our experiences in this new world. Our stories matter. There is a magic about that.” Renée

Meditation and relaxation skills can help when you are feeling low or needing some quiet time. You may find gentle massage helps reduce stress and improves your wellbeing.

There are things you can do to find meaning in this difficult time, and give you strength and enjoyment in life.

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