Tips for Managing the Side Effects of the Most Common Gynecologic Cancer
The experience of being diagnosed with endometrial cancer and undergoing cancer treatment will affect your life in many ways. It may change the way you feel about your body. You may experience many or relatively few side effects. Being aware of the possible treatment effects may help you anticipate them and plan ways to cope.
Working Toward Fitness
During treatment, you may find that even the stairs to your bedroom are a challenge, even if you’ve worked hard during your adult life to keep fit. It’s discouraging, but normal, to have to reduce or interrupt your fitness routine. If you’ve had surgery, ask your doctor for specific guidelines about exercise. During chemotherapy or radiation, adjust your exercise according to how you feel.
You should avoid overexerting yourself or becoming dehydrated. Over the weeks and months after you finish cancer treatment, you can build back toward your previous level of fitness.
Coping with Fatigue
Regardless of the treatment prescribed, you are likely to experience fatigue and times when you do not feel well enough to take care of tasks at home. You will need to rely on family and friends to help with some of the things you usually do.
You may want to consider hiring someone for help with chores until you feel well enough to manage again. If you know that you will not have support at home, talk frankly with your healthcare team as early as possible so that alternatives can be explored. Since a nourishing diet is important, be sure to ask for help, if needed, in maintaining healthy meal and snack choices in your home. Be sure that your blood count is checked to rule out anemia as a treatable cause of fatigue.
What About My Kids?
It is often difficult for young children to understand what you are going through. Counselors are available to help you answer questions and to help your children cope. It is also a good idea to ask family and friends to help you keep your children’s normal routine.
Requesting Work Accommodations
You will probably need to be away from work quite a bit during the first month or two of your treatment. Talk with your supervisors at work and with your healthcare team to set up a realistic plan for work absences and your return to work. Remember to tell your work supervisor that any plan must be flexible because your needs may change as treatment progresses. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers certain protections for workers and family members who must be away from work for health reasons.
Regardless of the treatment prescribed, you are likely to experience fatigue and times when you do not feel well enough to take care of tasks at home.
Facing the World
The effects of cancer and your cancer treatment may alter your appearance. You may appear fatigued, pale, and slow-moving, and you may have to face temporary hair loss. You may feel self-conscious because of these changes. It might help to imagine how you might feel if you saw a friend or sister looking as you do. Remember that many people are loving you rather than judging you as they notice these changes.
Making Time for Family, Friendships, and Fun
No matter what type of treatment you have, you may experience side effects that could affect how you feel about joining in social events with friends and family. Talk to your healthcare team if special events, such as a wedding or graduation, are coming up. The timing of your treatments may be able to be adjusted so that you feel as well as possible for these special days.
Don’t hesitate to plan activities that you enjoy. You may have to cancel on occasion or leave a little early, but the good times will help you to find strength for the hard days.
Since 2009, the Foundation for Women’s Cancer has hosted the National Race to End Women’s Cancer to celebrate survivors, honor loved ones, create awareness, and raise funds. This year’s event will be November 3–4 in Washington, DC. For more information about the race, visit EndWomensCancer.org. You can learn more about the Foundation for Women’s Cancer and its mission to raise awareness and research funding to defeat gynecologic cancers at FoundationForWomensCancer.org.
Reprinted with permission from Foundation for Women’s Cancer’s Endometrial Cancer: Your Guide.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2018.