In the picture to the right is the collection of items I got from the cancer clinic yesterday. For anyone heading into treatment, there is a huge amount of reading material and massive array of support resources available.
Perhaps more importantly, there is a common theme throughout all this literature encouraging every patient to take full advantage of all the services available, ask any question, advise when struggling emotionally, and never hold back when in doubt. Although our medical system is constantly under criticism for its shortcoming, my experience so far is that we are fortunate in Nova Scotia to have such a mature cancer treatment program. By the way, my wife Janet is a breast cancer survivor from the 90s so this is our second experience with the cancer clinic. It was excellent back then and I think that continues to this day.
I write about my personal experience as a coping mechanism and it really keeps me grounded and in a place of emotional and spiritual peace. It is normal to be frightened, intimidated, depressed, angry and overwhelmed. Since my diagnosis, the emotional roller-coaster is the worst ride of my life. My wife Janet and little brother Brad have been my support pillars and provide me with a safe haven. Keeping my diagnosis a secret until after my son’s wedding on New Year’s Eve was agonizing. Holding this secret did not delay the start of my treatment planning and it was more important to me that everyone’s’ future memories of Christmas 2019 and the wedding were joyful and not in any way overshadowed by Dad’s cancer. This was the right decision and I think mission accomplished.
The professionals at the cancer clinic are trained to reach out to help with every aspect imaginable of cancer care. Each patient remains in control of their care and may opt-in or opt-out of any recommended treatment option. I personally view this as empowering. In my case, I say “bring it on” but I know that’s not the right approach for everyone.
Let me share a sampling of one brochure so you have a taste of what’s available for me to read, digest, and broaden my understanding of my disease and the treatment ahead.
This is one of the Patient & Family Guides. It uses a large font to improve readability and is clear and concise in language. It starts with a brief definition.
Radiation Therapy is a treatment that uses radiation from high-energy X-ray machines to kill cancer cells. Most people call it radiation. It is also known as radiotherapy, X-ray therapy, or irradiation. Radiation is one of many ways to treat cancer, and sometimes other diseases.From the Patient & Family Guide 2018 titled Radiation Therapy prepared by the Nova Scotia Health Authority Cancer Care Program
The balance of the 6-page document is in sections titled:
- How does radiation therapy work?
- Why is radiation recommended for me?
- What are the different types of radiation treatment?
- How long will I need to have radiation?
- How often will I need to radiation?
- Where will I get my radiation treatments?
- How will I get ready for external beam radiation?
- What happens during external beam radiation?
- Will I see my doctor during treatment?
- What are the side effects of radiation?
- What is the difference between radiation and other cancer treatments?
- How can I cope with my cancer and radiation therapy?
- Questions to ask your health care team.
- Looking for more information on this topic?
All of the Patient & Family guides follow the same format. Here’s a list of the titles:
- Healthy Eating
- Managing cancer-Related Fatigue
- Medicine Coverage
- Coping with cancer-Related Worry and Sadness
- Information for Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy: Treatments to the Chest Area
- Skin Care During Radiation Therapy
- Information About the Guarantee for all Radiation Therapy Patients – This one was interesting and includes the following: “The Province of Nova Scotia is also aware of the challenges you face. They know that starting your radiation therapy treatment as soon as possible is important. That’s why they’ve made a promise to everyone in Nova Scotia: If you have cancer and need radiation therapy, no more than eight weeks will pass before you start your treatment. It’s an eight-week Guarantee. And it starts the moment your Radiation Oncologist and you agree that you are ready to start treatment.
- What You Need to Know About Your Radiation Therapy Appointments, QEII cancer Care Program (Halifax)
- Radiation Therapy
- Let’s Talk About Personal Directives – This one was interesting; it deals with assigning someone to make decisions if I become incapable of making them for myself. There are forms included to fill out and set this up. Although it is not necessary to have a lawyer involved, by coincidence, yesterday I met with my lawyer to update my Will. It turns out the “Power of Attorney” section of my Will already takes care of that concern.
The bottom line is that there is a wealth of literature available to help anyone struggling to understand cancer and cancer care. As well, there are experts available for you to speak with if the materials leave you with unanswered questions.
We are really in good hands here in Nova Scotia.