How Can A Distraction Manage A Chronic Pain For A Cancer Survivor?

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Tien has shown a fervent strength despite the extreme pain she felt right after her 2nd surgery.

This is a personal story of one of the people who are close to me and just recently had her 2nd surgery. Her recovery is still in progress but we had noticed a remarkable progression from her.

You don’t know how strong this lady is. I salute her braveness despite the agonizing pain she felt for months. As I remember, after her 2nd surgery, she decided not to stay in her house and rest; instead, she jumped into the bus and traveled with us to one of the towns not really far from Saigon. That was not easy though, she felt dizzy, vomited and caught with a fever the day after. But, hey! That was just for days! Even that experience was not really nice if you try to imagine, but now she is gradually recovering, and the most noticeable recovery is – she did not feel the same pain anymore.

I am not talking that there is a miracle happened behind that sudden disappearance of her pain. There’s none. The pain that she felt during those days is actually normal and will eventually get better as the wound inside heals. Unfortunately, this pain sometimes last for months and for some people, it lasts a year. The pain she felt during those times is different from the pain I felt during the course of my treatment 2 years ago. And I could not really give an accurate personal judgment and compare her pain to mine even we were on the same journey.

The pain that I am actually talking is a severe pain where she can hardly breathe and keep losing weight every day. Afraid that her cancer is metastasized, so we decided to make a new appointment to a new doctor and one of the doctors we met ordered a blood test and assured us that there is no metastatic sign seen in her blood. We are not contented with this result as Tien still felt the same pain and it even gets worst and even us could not understand her anymore. Even herself could not understand why she feels that kind of pain. Sometimes, I don’t want to keep asking her the same question, how she is doing, because she still gives the same answer, “I feel pain”.

After many visits we did with different doctors in Saigon, different tests she has to take to understand the pain she felt inside, why she continuously losing weight – still, we have not acquired the answer we are demanding. Despite the daily suffering she felt, she was more than willing to live a new normal life.

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A meeting with Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor.
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A pulse diagnosis is like the “MRI” of traditional medical system.
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Another meeting with a Thyroid Oncologist.

Now here comes an “alternative therapy” which actually works for Tien during her recovery stage. Distraction draws a patient into a highly interesting activity to take his or her mind off pain or discomfort.* This is only effective for a patient who is experiencing pain but it does not cure cancer. When a patient is engaged in an interesting activity, it allows its mind being distracted by unpleasant thoughts or pain that can help the patient feel better.

The following are suggested activities and therapies can provide a distraction that might work well for every cancer patient:

  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Imagery
  • Stories
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Virtual reality and computer games
  • Doing needlework or puzzles
  • Building models or painting
  • Watching TV

So, what are the activities Tien did that provide a distraction?

  1. Talk with friends and family
  2. Read books or articles online
  3. Listen to uplifting music (sometimes we go Karaoke)
  4. Go outside (she usually does this by herself, take a walk in the park)
  5. Take care of animals (there are 2 cats living at home, so whenever she is alone at home she feed and pet the cats)
  6. Travel (she usually travels with is in one of the towns outside Saigon)

These activities Tien did, are done at a slow pace, we still do encourage her not to force herself as she is still recovering. But her spirit showed the willingness to live a new normal life and recover completely. At the moment, Tien is inspired to do her job again as a freelance graphic and web designer. And in the future, she aims to visit her oncology doctor again to have another test done to make sure that there is no another cancer cell growing inside her body.

**This blog is not intended to give a professional medical advice. It is best to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner whatever medical condition you may or your loved ones have at the moment. Some medical accounts mentioned in this article are made from a careful research of the author, personal experiences shared from those who have similar cases like Tien, and a doctor’s prior validation what cause this pain to inflict her every day.

*Source: Distraction, Health Encyclopedia, University of Rochester Medical Center.

Photo courtesy of the owner.

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5 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting Children With Cancer

It’s hard to know what to say or do for someone who has cancer and most especially to a child diagnosed with cancer. You want to say or do the right thing, but sometimes it comes out wrong at the end. You wish to help someone who has cancer, be with them or volunteer in an organization which aids patients with cancer, but how?

Everyone’s experience with cancer is unique, so as with the children who face this kind of battle at the early age. So here are the 5 things you need to know before you visit children with this deadly disease.

  1. Do something. Don’t just ask, “Is there anything I can do?” If you decided to volunteer to any NGOs or private charity project, simply offer to do something. Think about first what is it that you are capable of helping one of these children who has cancer. Maybe you can feed the child, sing a song, play with them or just simply touch the child on the arm, hand, shoulder or back as little as 60 seconds just to create a human bond.
  2. Offer practical and appropriate gifts. If you want to give your own personalized gift, grab your shoe box, fill it with some healthy snacks, toiletries, coloring book with non-toxic crayons, books, and a card. It’s a thought that counts, no matter how big or small you can offer too few or many, it meant a lot to the child and to its family. Yes, it’s so cute to bring balloons or so sweet to bring flowers for them but we don’t know if these children are allergic or sensitive with some latex content materials or pollen from the flowers. We don’t compromise the patient’s immune system so we better be attentive first before buying what gifts to buy for them.
  3. If the patient cries or shouts, it’s not about you. In my experience, no matter how I give comfort to a child who is crying or shouting, it won’t stop until it will be able to get asleep. The only time that they can’t feel the pain is when they’re sleeping. The mother could not even stop the child who suffers brain cancer from crying or shouting. So, whenever you visit a child with cancer in a hospital and you see them look terrible, you don’t need to come near and give comfort. If you also feel the need to cry, don’t hold your tears, just simply step out of the room. These cancer patients and their family don’t need crying and tissues in their room because they also try to be optimistic and looking forward that they will get out from the room they have been staying for months. I don’t say it’s not okay to cry but letting the children see you cry while they are lying on their bed is not really helping at all.
  4. Never make unkind comments. In my previous blog, I had written on how we choose the words we could give to cancer patients or even survivors. Usually, most people make comments that they never realize could hurt someone who suffers a deadly and terminal disease. In good faith, you may say a comment that you thought it’s positive, but it’s not actually comforting to those who are already hurt physically and mentally. So, it’s a good reminder to be careful about whatever we have to say not to hurt them more especially on the emotional aspect or rather say nothing at all. It’s perfectly fine to hold yourself from speaking, there’s no need to rush. Sometimes, just being with them and offering a touch can help more than words.
  5. Never whine about your life’s burdens. The last but not the least, a helpful reminder that each cancer patient or a survivor like me can share with you is to never complain about life. There’s nothing to complain about. Always realize that life has been good for you and you must enjoy that. We, the cancer survivors, have been trying to show you that you must enjoy life while you have it. And remember, somebody’s worst days could be much worse for others. Everything is relative. You make your own choice on how your life would be. Would you allow your entire day to be ruined with just a small mistake happened in the morning? Your reaction matters in every situation you are facing with. It could be a positive or negative circumstance, you have the option to look at your life on the way how you view it. One way or the other, the contrast of life is, as long as we are alive, we all have ups and downs and your approach is how you handle that roller coaster called LIFE.

So, if you have a chance to visit the children with cancer, you are just completing the circle. By any means of helping others, it’s the same way of treating and helping yourself. In return, meeting these children with cancer is another way to learn from their stories. And their stories might heal you, by seeing the pain from them, in order to recognize your own pain you’ve been keeping for a long time.

Do it now, tomorrow is not guaranteed that you can help and there are no second chances. Make memories while you can with these children and don’t put anything off to do later. Who knows, your life could change in a moment you are with them.

**This blog is not intended to give a professional medical advice. It is best to always seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner whatever medical condition you may or your loved ones have at the moment.

Photo courtesy of MyHDiet.

How an Emotional Support Helps a Cancer Patient and Survivor

Try to examine yourself now. Are every word, action, and energy go straight to your heart? What about when you make mistakes, can you easily know it, feel it and you feel like tearing yourself apart?

Now imagine this, your sibling, parent, friend or any special person in your life has got cancer. And as cancer affects their physical health, it also leads to exhaustive and diverse feelings. Most of them are negative emotions and they’re not used to be dealing with. These feelings change from time to time, every second and every minute.

But, let me tell you this. All the feelings of our loved one that has cancer or recovered from cancer are all normal. And also, even yours!

We all grew up in diverse ways on how to cope up trials and troubles, just as much how we think about dealing with cancer. Some feel they have to be strong and protect their friends and families. Some seek support and turn to loved ones or other cancer survivors, but it doesn’t mean they are weak enough not to show strength from within. They prefer listening to their experiences and struggles and how they were able to get up. Some ask for help from counselors or other professionals. And some, turn to their faith to help them cope.

The task of deciding whether to keep fighting the battle or just give up is overwhelming as we are able to see or experience cancer. Whatever each patient and survivor decide, the most important to do what’s right for them, without judging and comparing oneself to others.

If you find yourself in this circumstances, you could be a carer, health practitioner, friend or a family, you must understand the different feelings someone close to you that has cancer or recovering from cancer.

Overwhelmed
The first time I learned that I have cancer, I felt as if my life was out of control. And this is true for everyone. Exact feelings and thoughts. Why?

  1. We wonder if we’re going to live or how long we might live.
  2. Our normal schedules were shattered by treatments, doctor appointments and lots of questions unanswered clouded our head.
  3. We feel like we can’t enjoy the things we used to do or the things we are about to do.
  4. We feel hopeless and lonely.

Denial
During my first diagnosis, I was very skeptic about the fact of having a tumor inside my body. I started blaming external circumstances happened around me. They could be those people that had brought negative energy to my life or a careless lifestyle that I didn’t see it coming and had brought me cancer. Having cancer was one of the things I never wish to come in my life. So, it was hard to accept the fact, that I will be getting cancer or I have cancer.

Anger
I stopped talking to the people who are close to me, I feel so angry and ask myself, “Why me?” All those times, I felt so guilty when I feel mad at people around me and even to myself, but little I did know that it is okay to be angry. Because this anger helps me to motivate myself to take an action. Eventually, I turn to the right people to talk about my anger.

Fear and Worry
The word “tumor” had already scared me to death even before it was confirmed that it was already cancer. There are many things suddenly flashes in my mind that made me afraid and worried.

  1. I will not be able to do my future plans.
  2. How much pain will I feel and how long will it last.
  3. Paying my bills.
  4. Keeping my job.
  5. Death.

HOPE

In the middle of the fight, I came to the point that I have to profess, accept, and be honest with myself that I have cancer. So, that’s it. What should we do? You had it. Whining can’t help you beat that cancer. So as fear, worry, anger, denial and being overwhelmed.

Once you accept the fact that you have cancer,  you feel the sense of hope. In fact, there are many reasons to feel hopeful. It doesn’t mean, you got cancer, you will die anytime soon. There are thousands and millions of cancer survivors around the globe that are still alive today and that includes me, you, your friend or loved one.

Some doctors even think that “hope” may help your body deal with cancer. Scientists nowadays are studying whether a hopeful attitude and positive approaches to any problems help people feel better. Researchers even study the Science of Forgiveness can bring tremendous health and social benefits.

So let’s encourage them to build their sense of hope:

  1. Continue to plan their days as what they used to do. (Yes, I did this the exact way.)
  2. Don’t limit the things they like to do just because they have cancer. (People have cancer are not useless.)
  3. Look for some reasons to have hope. (I started journaling my journey with cancer and eventually started blogging last year. Creativity helps to build hope from the inside.)
  4. Spend time in nature. (After my radiation therapy, I shut the world and stop meeting people and bring my book to the park, read and watch people. It helps for 5 months.)
  5. Listen to stories about people with cancer who are leading active lives. (I watch TedTalks or other YouTube Videos, read books, blogs, articles or research papers.)

There are many ways to cope up our emotions if we are only open and forward to yourself first. If we only:

  • Express your feelings.
  • Look for the positive.
  • Don’t blame yourself for your cancer.
  • Find ways to help yourself relax.
  • Be active as you can.
  • Look for things you enjoy.
  • Look at what you can control.

Leaving you this bulleted list in just one simple sentence. I do look forward you can resonate with every word and keep moving on every day. Nothing is static and everything changes. We only need to be flexible with these crazy changes and accept what we cannot change instead of on dwelling and wait to die.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash