Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What Athletes Should Know About Cancer Part 2

If you're coming here from Amy's blog, welcome! This is part two of the two part blogpost on athletes and cancer.

Know how to support someone who is diagnosed

For an athlete diagnosed with cancer, the decision to tell others is difficult. They are afraid enough for their life, not to mention losing their friends, their sport, and their social network around it.
When they tell, the lay experts come out of the woodwork like termites- suddenly everyone becomes an armchair oncology expert, especially when it comes to nutrition. Resist the urge.

1. Don’t tell them about alternative treatments that you’ve heard of, or that you read somewhere about a study that showed some type of special juice cured cancer. Their LIFE is at stake here. If we knew the juice cured cancer, we’d all be drinking it.
2. Don’t imply that they did something to cause their cancer. Don’t try to figure out why. You’ll come off as contemptful or judgmental, not to mention what this does to your friend with cancer who is already overwhelmed.
3. Don’t freak out, look up statistics on their type of cancer, or give them information off the Internet. Let their doctors practice medicine and do what they do best- treat cancer. It might be hard to put yourself in their shoes, but try. If you had cancer, wouldn’t you want to choose the treatment that had the most evidence for success and rely on experts who have been trained specifically in treating cancer?
4. Don’t make assumptions, no matter how well-meaning you are, that they can “beat” cancer, tell them they are a “fighter”. Some people don’t want to hear this. If they do, then great, give them the support they want. Ask them what they want.
5. If someone is being treated for cancer, don’t recommend supplements or antioxidants to them. The chemotherapy is intended to kill cells. That’s what you want to do in the case of cancer. You want oxidative stress and free radicals. Otherwise you’re counteracting the chemotherapy.
6. If they are getting chemo, don’t give them fresh fruits or vegetables, fresh flowers or plants, expose them to pets or sick kids, and avoid going to see them if you’re sick. Their immune system is going to be weak until after they recover from chemo. This is not the time to bring them kale and chia smoothies unless their cancer doctors say it’s okay.

1. Go here and click on the body parts to get some basic tips on supporting someone with cancer.
2. If you’re finding yourself so freaked out by your friend who has cancer, examine your own reasons for your freak out. Do you have some of your own issues that are unresolved? Maybe this is a chance for you to get some counseling for yourself so you can give better support to the person with cancer.
3. Remember, it’s not about you. THEY have cancer, not you. You have your health. Use the abundant energy that you were blessed with to help them. Do some footwork, offer to do laundry, errands, things they don’t have the energy for. Walk the dog, clean the yard, shovel snow. Use some of your own precious training time to do something for them. That shows you care.

If you are diagnosed- it doesn’t automatically mean the end of your athletic career.

1. First, you’re going to panic. That’s normal. But I’m going to tell you this, as hard as it is, as an athlete, you need to take your lifestyle into consideration when talking with your doctors.
2. Even though your first impulse might be: “Cut it out of me and get it over with!”, what you do and how you approach surgery and treatment decisions can make a big impact on your ability to recover and resume your sport, and your comfort in doing so. Take your time, it will be worth it in the long run.
3. Don’t be pressured into choosing any one method of treatment. Make sure you ask the doctor how it will impact participation in your sport, and at the level you hope to achieve. Get a second opinion if you’re not convinced it’s right for you. If you can find a doctor who is an athlete, that’s even better.
4. Cancer is very rarely an immediate life-threatening emergency. You should take the time to discuss any decisions with your oncologists, breast surgeons, urologist, plastic surgeons, radiation oncologist, or anyone else in your care. For example: certain reconstruction methods may be better for some athletes than others. If you use your upper body a lot in your sport, make sure your doctor understands how important your sport is to you.
5. The way they approach radiation treatment, which chemotherapy they use, the type of surgery, and any reconstruction can make an impact on your ability to return to and recover your ability to do your sport. Prostate cancer treatments can also impact your comfort in returning to running and other activities.
6. Depending on what type of cancer it is, you might need some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatments. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, and it takes time. Athletes are known for not giving up, for having endurance, and believing in themselves. You can use these mental skills in coping with cancer treatment and recovery, plus the determination to come back.
7. Athletes also start out in better health than most patients giving them an edge. They are also more likely to be able to continue some form of exercise during treatment, which helps them throughout the process and in recovering faster.

It’s not over when it’s over, so don’t forget support afterwards

1. After cancer treatment it can take a lot of time and effort to recover. While athletes have an advantage, there is still a lot of physical, emotional, and even social recovery for athletes with cancer.
2. After treatment they have to regain their strength and fitness. They might be anemic, have lost muscle mass, or range of motion. They can feel abandoned by their workout buddies. Remember them. Don’t let your own athletic goals get in the way of being a friend to them. Make time even if it’s not in a workout, or offer to do an easy workout with them.
3. Don’t expect them to jump right back into racing and training. It can take a while, but often, they can come back, and sometimes, stronger than ever.

Cancer Harbors is an online service that is designed for people after cancer treatment, as a guide to recovering. It has special material and support for athletes with cancer, to help them physically and psychologically recover their strength and confidence. Emotional and social support, with coaching and guidance. It is for anyone, including non-athletes, who need help in the anxiety-filled year after they leave their cancer doctors behind. It’s a thoughtful way to support a friend who is going through cancer treatment, to give them the edge in recovering and getting back to the sport they love. It’s also a great way to learn more about cancer in general. To find out how to give a gift of Cancer Harbors, visit here.

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