Tuesday, June 18, 2013


by Allison W. Gryphon


Resting post op at my friend Isis's house with her cat Magic. They both made sure to remind me that part of 
managing the cancer fight is knowing when to rest.

Q: Fighting cancer is a full time job. How do I do this?

A: The impact of a cancer diagnosis changes everything for the cancer fighter and everyone around them.   Management of time and information is essential.  Everyone involved has a somewhat daunting new job so the best approach is to take a deep breath and then make a plan.  


1. Medical Profile. Being diagnosed with cancer means many new doctors who all want your personal and family medical history. Typing up a complete list along with your emergency contacts, insurance information, current medications and allergies to have on hand for your new doctors is helpful, efficient and a time saver for everyone.

2. Team Leader. You can’t do it all and you shouldn’t. Fighting cancer is a team sport. Pick a team leader. Having 1 or 2 people assigned to this position is a great help in communication and time management. You need to focus on fighting cancer. Let your team leader provide updates on how you’re doing and field questions and emails from friends, family and co-workers who want to check in and help.

3. Calendar, Notes and Questions. Keeping a cancer calendar can be a huge help. One calendar with all of your tests and appointments, notes from appointments and questions for future appointments is helpful in managing time, looking back if you need reference for billing, insurance or history, and so your team leader/s have one place to go and look up everything that is going on and has gone on with your cancer fight.

4. Schedule. Make a realistic schedule that includes everything you need to make your life go. Doctors appointments, grocery shopping, laundry day, rest periods, billing day, etc.. This will change of course, but having a plan and a system in place can help keep things on track and from being overwhelming.

5. Cancer Fighter Travel Bag. The Cancer Fighter Travel Bag is a bag that goes everywhere with you.  You will need all of its contents.  It's purpose is time, emotional and life management.  This is a fight that is not a sprint, but a marathon so consider all the things that make you happy, comfortable and organized when packing your Fighter Bag.  Your Cancer Fighting Travel Bag should include: 1. All of the information you need regarding your cancer fight 2. Things that make you feel good and practical items that are going to support what you are going through 3.Copies of your medical profile and insurance card 4. Your calendar 5. Snacks that travel well 6. An extra pair of socks for cold doctor’s offices 7. An iPod or something like it to record your doctor’s appointments that also has a selection of your favorite songs to put you at ease 7. A few photos of your favorite people to remind you that they’re always with you. 


1.  Phone Tree. In supporting a cancer fighter, you need support too. A phone tree including everyone willing and able to help, what they can help with, times they are available and what part of town they life in is invaluable.

2. Shifts. Don’t push yourself to the limit. Caretaking is a rough gig and a long haul. Form a team and work in shifts. Make sure all of the caretakers involved get not only physical breaks, but emotional breaks as well.

3. Calendar. Being a caretaker means the cancer fighter’s calendar merges with yours. Schedule your caretaking time, just like you schedule anything else and make sure you have a copy of your cancer’s fighter’s full calendar so you’ve always got a full picture of what’s going on.

4. Work Sheets. There is a lot that needs to get done when you’re a Caretaker. Many are things we never think. Creating simple worksheets for each task as they present themselves can help the whole team. For example, after my mastectomy and lymph node dissection I did not have the strength to open the refrigerator so my caretaker was sure to take anything out of the refrigerator that I might need before hopping in the shower or running out for an errand.

5.  The Caretaker Fighter Bag. Fighting cancer is full of appointments and surprises. Having a bag packed that includes everything you need to take care of you and your cancer fighters is very helpful. Contact numbers, copies of your fighter’s medical profile, snacks, things to keep your organized, nice distractions. Everything you need for the practical and emotional last minute surprises.

If you have any suggestions or questions for Cancer Answers: Managing the Cancer Fight please email us at info@thewhyfoundation.org.


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