10 Tips for Traveling During Chemo

 

Many cancer patients travel or take a vacation while undergoing chemotherapy, especially during their “off” weeks.  But is it safe?  Where are the best places for cancer patients to travel?  What, if any, precautions should cancer patients take when traveling?  The key to safe traveling during chemo is to think ahead and prepare for any special travel needs.  Here are some tips from guest blogger & freelance travel writer Laura Webster on planning a get-away during chemo…

 

1. Talk to your doctor

Consult with your doctor before planning any trip.  Your doctor can determine whether it is safe for you to travel and if so, what specific precautions you need to take.

Also ask your doctor for any recommendations on doctors or treatment centers at the place where you traveling to.  If they don’t know of any, do some research before leaving.  This way should an emergency arise, you will know exactly where to go and what to do.

 

2. Choose a suitable destination

There are only a limited amount of countries that are safe to travel to if you are undergoing chemo. Many patients can not take ‘live’ vaccines, which are a requirement when visiting parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Western Pacific Islands as well as some parts of Eastern Europe. Locations within the US, Canada, Australia and the rest of Europe are viable destinations.   

 

3. Stay out of the sun

Some chemotherapy drugs can make your skin burn more easily in sunlight so you might want to pick a country with a cooler climate. England is one option because ‘recovery retreats’ specifically aimed at people who are receiving treatment for serious, life threatening illnesses have become increasingly popular there in recent years. Some of these retreats even offer onsite doctors and therapists. They are centred around relaxation as opposed to cramming your vacation with as much activity as possible, which makes them ideal for chemo patients.

If you do decide to go to a hot country, be sure to use plenty of suntan lotion. Other ways of protecting yourself include wearing a wide-brimmed hat to prevent your neck and face from getting burnt and sitting in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.  

 

4.  Check with your insurance company about coverage

Before traveling, call your health insurance company to see if you are covered in other states or countries.  Find out if there are any restrictions like going to a certain hospital or doctor. If you are traveling overseas, you may want to consider traveler’s insurance.   

 

5. Bring more medication than you’ll need

Travel with extra meds is in case some get lost or your trip gets delayed. Keep the meds with you, not in a suitcase.  Another suggestion- have copies of prescriptions in case you do lose your medication. It will make it much easier for a pharmacy or hospital to verify the prescription.

If you are traveling to another country, make sure that your specific meds are legal in the country you are traveling to.  You may need a doctor’s note explaining what the drug is and why you need it.

 

6. Take It Easy

Traveling can be exhausting so schedule regular periods of rest during your trip to try and stave off fatigue. Avoid pushing yourself to take part in activities that you think might prove to be too much for you.  After all, you want your vacation to be a pleasurable experience and not something that is going to make you feel worse.

 

7. Stay hydrated… and avoid chlorine.

One side effect of cancer treatment is dehydration.  So remember to drink plenty of water.  Staying hydrated is also essential when fighting fatigue.
Chemo drugs may also make your skin sensitive to chlorine so it might be a good idea to avoid swimming pools that have been treated with this chemical.

 

9. Arrange for assistance at the airport.  

Walking to different terminals and gates can be physically exhausting for someone who doesn’t have cancer, let a lone a person that does. When checking your baggage, let the airline know that you need assistance to the gate. Don’t risk not being able to get on your flight because you didn’t think you would need help, or were too proud to ask.

 

10. Above all, enjoy yourself.

Once you have got everything in place ready for your trip, remember the main purpose of your vacation, which is to relax and enjoy yourself. Be careful not to over-exert yourself and only do as much as you are comfortable with doing. Try to keep your break as stress-free as possible and hopefully you will return home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.  

 

P.S.  If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and need to travel out-of-state for treatment, read  “5 Ways to Reduce Costs When Traveling for Cancer Treatment”.  This post is loaded with information and resources that can ease the financial burden of long distance care. 

 

5 Ways to Reduce Costs When Traveling for Cancer Treatment

 

To get the best care possible, many cancer patients need to travel out-of-state for treatments, surgeries and even second opinions. Being away from your family and your routine is not only difficult, it’s expensive. One recent study found that people with cancer were 2.65 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people without cancer. Fortunately, there is help, even for patients who decide to travel for care.

 

1. Dozens of organizations offer free air travel services for cancer patients, many on private jets.

After my husband had emergency brain surgery in Texas, I had to figure out a way to get him back home to Maryland. We connected with Corporate Angel Network, as they arrange free travel on corporate jets for cancer patients, bone marrow donors and bone marrow recipients.

Most groups who offer free flights require that the patient be ambulatory (able to walk and get into/out of the plane with little or no assistance) and be medically stable as the pilots are not able to provide any medical assistance. For a listing of organizations that provide free air travel to cancer patients, read my article on FREE Flights for Cancer Fighters.

 

2. Ask the hospital or cancer center (that you’re traveling to) if they have a travel program.

Many of the larger hospital centers have Patient Travel Programs whereby they can offer discounts on unrestricted, changeable, non-penalty airfares and change fee waivers on restricted fares from anywhere in the United States.

Additionally, airlines such as Southwest partner with many hospitals and cancer centers to offer free, round trip flights to cancer patients traveling for treatment. Ask the Travel/Concierge Service or Patient Assistance Department at the hospital center you are traveling to if you qualify.

 

3. Free or reduced cost lodging may be available.

These extended stay facilities aim to create a home-like environment for traveling cancer patients and families at little or no cost. Unlike a hotel, these facilities provide opportunities to connect with others going through similar stressful situations.

Hope Lodge — The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge provides free, temporary housing to patients and families who need to travel out of state for cancer treatments. There are currently 31 Hope Lodge locations throughout the United States. Accommodations and eligibility requirements vary by location.

Ronald McDonald House Charities — Ronald McDonald House provides housing and accommodations for little to no cost to families of pediatric patients 18 years of age and younger. Some locations will accept pediatric patients up to 21 years of age.

Healthcare Hospitality Network (Formerly known as the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses) — The Healthcare Hospitality Network, Inc. is an association of nearly 200 nonprofit organizations that provide free or significantly reduced cost lodging and supportive services for families receiving medical care away from home. Typical housing offers shared kitchens, common living areas and private bedrooms.

Fisher Houses — Fisher House provides free lodging to military families (including veterans) who are being treated at military medical centers. There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center across the country

 

4. If you opt to book your own hotel, ask for a “medical rate.”

Many medical centers have arrangements with nearby hotels to offer a “medical rate” which is usually quite a bit lower than the hotel’s “standard rate.”

Joe’s House — Joe’s House works with hotels and other lodging facilities to provide medical discounts to cancer patients. This site connects users to thousands of places across the country near hospitals and treatment centers along with details on amenities, rates, reservation methods and requirements are available. Users may search for accommodations by city or proximity to a cancer treatment center or hospitals. Joe’s House works with hotels and other lodging facilities to centralize inventory and provide medical discount to cancer patients.

Hospital Traveler — Hospital Traveler is a free travel service that has access to almost 50,000 hotels strategically located near medical centers, discount airfare and discount car rental services. Their Reservation Specialists can also assist eligible Medicaid and private insurance recipients in using their health care benefits as payment for medical travel reducing the out of pocket medical expense.

 

5. You may qualify for a grant to help defray travel-related expense.

Just as there are prescription assistance funds that help qualifying patients get the medications they need, there are organizations that help cancer patients defray the cost of cancer-related travel. Specific areas of assistance might include: airline tickets and gas cards; money to cover the cost of hotels and food at local area restaurants; and food vouchers to hospital cafeterias. Below are just a few of the many organizations that award grants to individual cancer patients for treatment-related travel.

CancerCare offers funding to defray travel expenses for some cancer patients. If they do not have funding to assist you, their professional oncology social workers will work to refer you to other financial assistance resources.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand awards travel grants up to $2,000 to families of pediatric cancer patients who meet certain criteria.

Eric D. Davis Foundation (Provide for the Assist Fund) awards grants to adult sarcoma patients to cover the costs for transportation, lodging, meals and even childcare during long distance treatment.

The Butterfly Fund assists needy families of children and young adults with brain and spinal cord tumors with travel and lodging expenses associated with seeking and/or obtaining treatment at locations outside of the patient’s city or state.

 

Do you have any tips for reducing the cost of cancer-related travel? If so, please share them. By doing so, you might just make someone else’s cancer journey a little easier and a little less expensive. xo

(This article was originally written by Robyn, aka CancerHawk, for Huffington Post)

Can A Health Savings Account Pay Your Cancer Bills?

Cancer, like any chronic illness, can cause financial distress and even bankruptcy. Research has shown that roughly 65% of cancer survivors – most of whom had health insurance – did not have enough household income to cover treatment-related expenses and 1/3 of cancer survivors reported they were less financially secure after treatment than before*.  Yikes!  These statistics are frightening.

One option to help shield people from a health-related financial crisis is something called a Health Savings Account.  Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are like personal savings accounts, but the money in them is used to pay for health care expenses.  Of course HSAs have both advantages and disadvantages so you’ll need to weigh your options carefully.

Below is an article written by the folks at Charles Schwab brokerage service on the advantages of using a Health Savings Account (HSA) to help prevent future medical bills from wreaking havoc on your financial well being.  Although this article is not specific to cancer survivors, I’m re-posting it here on CancerHawk as it’s loaded with lots of good information.

 

Are medical bills going to throw a wrench into your well-laid retirement plans?

It’s hard to predict medical expenses, and recent reports about health care costs don’t exactly offer soothing news. But there’s an increasingly popular strategy that can help you save more, allowing you to take advantage of your Health Savings Account and its potential triple tax-free benefits.

Why your HSA could become your health care IRA

Even if you’re not anticipating big medical bills when you retire, the reality is that health care costs are escalating. To have enough cash to cover medical bills, a 65-year-old couple retiring now ideally would have socked away $283,000, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

The HSA was meant to help people with high-deductible health plans get a tax break to pay for current medical expenses not covered by insurance. But if you’re healthy and don’t need the money now, an HSA can be a huge help in saving for future medical costs. Besides the ability to deduct contributions, and getting federal-tax-free growth on all earnings, you can withdraw the money tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time.

Now that we’ve got your attention, here’s how you can use these otherwise ordinary accounts.

Savings booster

To open an HSA, you must have a high-deductible health insurance plan (with a deductible of at least $1,250 for an individual or $2,500 for a family) and, usually, no other coverage (such as Medicare).

In 2014, contributions to HSAs can total up to $3,300 for a single person ($6,550 for a family) in pre-tax dollars with additional $1,000 catch-up contributions for those age 55 and older. Spouses can’t have a joint HSA, and you have to have your own account in order to make those catch-up contributions. That adds up to a total potential contribution of $8,550 per family if both spouses have their own HSA and are over 55.

Don’t use it? Won’t lose it

Here’s the really good news: You don’t have to spend your HSA money by the end of the year or lose it—as is the case with many flexible spending accounts, or FSAs. And an HSA goes with you when you leave an employer. “It has so much more flexibility than an FSA, and it earns interest,” points out Rande Spiegelman, vice president of financial planning at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “There is no vesting process. It is your money, and you can take it with you when you leave your job.”

While you can participate in an FSA and still open an HSA, your FSA may be limited to vision and dental expenses.

As with 401(k)s, most employers contribute to HSAs; amounts vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,500 for a family, according to consulting firm Towers Watson.

The IRA for health care

Some financial planners call the HSA an IRA for health care (and it is treated like those retirement accounts under IRS rules). Typically, once your account holds a balance of around $2,000, you may begin to invest your savings. While some companies offer only the option of keeping your money in an FDIC-insured savings account, others allow you to invest in mutual funds.

One caveat: HSAs behave like IRAs in some ways, but they aren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) disclosure rules that govern 401(k)s, for example, don’t apply to HSAs, so it’s up to you to inquire about fees and costs associated with these accounts.

On the upside: Your allowable HSA contributions have no bearing on your 401(k) or IRA contributions; you can max out all three savings vehicles if you’re able.

Taxes and penalties

What if you save more money than you need for medical bills? The Affordable Care Act increased the penalty tax for withdrawing HSA funds for nonmedical reasons from 10% to 20%. But if you are age 65 or older, there’s no penalty on withdrawals for nonmedical reasons. However, the money you take out is taxed as ordinary income, similar to a traditional IRA.

If you die with money still in your account, you can leave those savings to your spouse (who can use the money free of estate taxes, and tax-free for nonmedical expenses). Your other heirs, however, would pay tax on the money they inherit.

But assuming you might need extra money for medical or long-term-care bills as you age, using your HSA as a savings cushion could be one of the smartest tax-free moves you can make.**

(* Marketwatch.com; ** Charles Schwab)

College Scholarship for Gastro-Esophageal Cancer

scholarship

Deanna’s Wish Memorial Scholarship has been established to help students whose lives have been affected by Gastro-Esophageal Cancer attend college.  This $1500 scholarship was created by The DLH Foundation, a one-stop informational resource for patients and caregivers touched by gastro-esophageal cancers. The website includes information on treatment options, nutrition and clinical trials.

Deanna’s Wish Memorial Scholarship is available to deserving students who meet the following criteria:

  • Student has been diagnosed with esophageal or stomach cancer, or  has an immediate family member (parent, grandparent, sibling, child) who has been affected by esophageal or stomach cancer.  
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must be entering college or continuing college in the 2015-2016 academic years
  • Recipient will have maintained a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and  scored 1500 or higher on the SAT or a 21 or higher on the ACT
  • Preference is given to residents of California

 

How to Apply

In 2014, three scholarships were awarded; and in 2013, five scholarships were awarded.  To become a 2015 Deana’s Wish Memorial Scholar, applicants will need to:

  • Complete the application found on DHLFoundation.org.
  • Submit a one-page written essay or video about how their life has been impacted by stomach or esophageal cancers.
  • Include a letter of recommendation and an official copy of college or high school transcripts.
  • Applications are due by March 1, 2015.

The scholarship winner(s) will be determined solely by a selection committee based on the written essay/video and application criteria listed above.  Awards will be paid directly to the college in the student’s name to help with tuition or materials costs.

For more information, visit DLHFoundation.org or contact Denise Ross at 760-705-3055.  

10 Ways to Help Siblings of Cancer Patients

 

Cancer has a profound effect on the entire family, especially when it’s a child whose been diagnosed.  While everyone is understandably focused on the care of the ill child, it’s natural for siblings to feel anxious, neglected, scared and even resentful at times.  MD Anderson‘s website offers great advice via podcast on how to tell children that sibling has cancer.  Click HERE to listen to it.

 

The article below was posted on The Primary Children’s Hospital of Salt Lake City, Utah. It offers good suggestions for helping siblings not get lost in shuffle so I am re-posting it here on CancerHawk.  For more insight into this topic as well as other children’s issues, check out the Primary Children’s Hospital blog “Play Ground“, it’s packed with lots of helpful information.

 

“A cancer diagnosis in a child affects the entire family. Out of necessity, the sick child gets more attention from parents and often receives special treatment or gifts. The sick child’s siblings are very aware of this shift in the family dynamic and are impacted by the emotional turmoil.

Young children may regress in their behavioral development, potty training, and sleeping habits. Older kids may experience feelings of jealously and resentment toward their sibling, or feel a sense of guilt for being well. They may even feel that their sibling’s illness is somehow their fault. Siblings of cancer patients may also feel pressure to take on added responsibilities in an attempt to reduce the stress that the cancer has placed on the family. In many cases, worries become internalized and causes siblings to feel isolated from their peers. These children often have a hard time concentrating in school.

Primary Children’s cancer team understands the ripple effects that cancer has on families. Our Social Workers and Child Life Specialists can provide parents with information that will help them have productive discussions that can benefit the whole family.

As an important part of a family’s treatment plan, parents may also consider a “Sibling Session.” Sibling Sessions provide all members of the family with the opportunity to discuss difficult emotions and family changes. The sessions allow children to openly communicate their feelings about having a brother or sister with a life-threatening disease. By freely sharing their fears and concerns with others, the siblings of cancer patients can more effectively work through their emotions and can increase acceptance of the new family dynamic—and possibly prevent future problems. It can also help to clear up any misconceptions about the illness with age-appropriate teaching.

One key issue centers on communication between well siblings and the child with cancer. Well siblings should be encouraged to maintain communication with the sick sibling, but should be given the choice whether or not to visit the hospital. If the well children want to visit, prepare them beforehand about the state of the sick child and what they will see at the hospital. Use words they understand, but use correct terms like cancer, leukemia, and chemotherapy. Using the proper words makes the situation less scary. If a well sibling does not want to visit, don’t push it. However, you should encourage some form of communication, such as letters, text messages, or using Facetime/Skype.

Other Ways Parents Can Support Siblings of Cancer Patients:

  1. Be open and honest with them about the seriousness of the situation.
  2. Give them permission to express feelings of guilt, jealously, anger, sadness, fear, and love—and validate these feelings.
  3. Spend as much time with the well children as possible—by phone, at the hospital, or in extra one-on-one time at home.
  4. Continue daily routines as much as possible. Maintain the same boundaries and same rules for both the sick and well children. Continue to talk with well children about what’s going on in their lives, including everyday things.
  5. Reassure them that just because their sibling is sick, they won’t become sick as well. And, assure them that this is not their fault and they did nothing to cause the illness.
  6. Keep school teachers informed about the situation so that they will be sensitive about the well children’s feelings and concerns.
  7. Stress the healthy aspects of the sick child, such as his/her sense of humor, interests, and talents.
  8. Be careful not to burden well children with extra duties and thank them for their help.
  9. Give well children permission not to talk just about their sick sibling with others. They may be getting asked a lot about their sibling and this gives them permission to talk about themselves and their accomplishments as well.
  10. Ask friends who want to give the sick child a gift to make it a family present so all siblings will reap the benefits of a caring family and community.”

Do you have any suggestions to help siblings of a cancer patient?

5 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

PicMonkey Collage2

 

Getting through the holiday season can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but if you or a loved one is facing cancer, the holidays can be especially trying.  For some people, the demands of the season will be physically and emotionally overwhelming. For others, treatments and unpleasant side effects can disrupt long-held traditions.

Dana Farber Cancer Institute posted these 5 tips for reducing holiday stress:

1. Keep it simple

Don’t worry about doing it all. Baking cookies or entertaining might have been easy in the past, but may seem overwhelming this year. Pick one or two special traditions and then ask family and friends for help. Make a list of what is most meaningful and prioritize. Some families even create new traditions when a loved one is going through treatment. Instead of a big holiday party, this year, plan a small potluck dinner and have everyone pitch in.

2. Go online

Skip the long lines and mall mayhem this time of year. Crowded shopping centers may be filled with holiday cheer, but they can be overwhelming. Shopping online lets people browse from the comfort of their couch. Invite friends over for gift wrapping or a cookie swap. Simple homemade gifts and cards, or even a phone call, can be just as special. The Internet is full of holiday e-card options and even grocery delivery services.

3. Express yourself

As the song says, this is the happiest time of the year. But if you or a family member is not feeling that way, it’s okay. Don’t feel obligated to be festive. Remember that it’s okay to show emotion – tears can bring a sense of relief. Pay attention to feelings and signs of stress. Joy can be side-by-side with other emotions like sadness or frustration, and it can help to talk these through with a loved one or a professional counselor.

4. Listen to your body

Fatigue due to cancer treatment is a common problem, so try to balance activity with rest. Conserving energy this time of year is important for most everyone. It’s important for people going through treatment to plan activities when they typically feel at their best and be sure to set aside time to relax and recover. Also stick to healthy activities. Take a walk with family or friends.

5. Plan a little “me” time

Do something enjoyable for yourself. This can provide a break from worries, and renews a sense of hope and satisfaction with life. Watching a favorite movie, talking to friends, playing seasonal music, or getting some fresh air can give a sense of peace and hopefulness. Try to focus on things to be thankful for to help enjoy – and let go of – what you can.

 

What do YOU do to reduce stress while celebrating the holidays with cancer?  Email robyn@cancerhawk.com OR tweet your suggestions to @CancerHawk and we’ll post them on our site.  

 

@CancerGamePlan tweeted that she makes gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Chocolate Pudding Cake laughing a ton with those you love most!

@mandahuginkiss says that it’s important to be around friends & family but in quieter gatherings.  Try not to over do it.  Indulge a little.

Announcing Cancer Survivor’s Scholarship

I’d like to introduce you to yet another new scholarship program for cancer survivors- the first annual Survivors Scholarshipcreated and funded by The Law Offices of Chalik & Chalik.  This $1000 scholarship is open to any cancer survivor attending college or law school this spring.  The award will be paid directly to the college in the student’s name to help with tuition or materials costs.  Additional requirements include:

  • Recipient must be a U.S. citizen or otherwise authorized to work in the United States
  • Recipient has been accepted, and will be or is attending a certified University or Law School in the Spring of 2015
  • Academic achievement as reflected by an undergraduate cumulative minimum 3.0 GPA

 

How to Apply

Complete the Survivors Scholarship online application as well as a short personal essay about how cancer has influenced your choice to pursue a higher education.  Applicants will also be required to provide an official copy of his or her college or high school transcripts.  The deadline is January 12, 2015. (scholarship will applied to the upcoming spring semester).

The scholarship winner will be determined solely by a selection committee based on the written essay and application criteria listed above.

For more information, visit Chalik & Chalik Survivors Scholarship website.

All questions should be directed to media@chaliklaw.com.  For more information, visit Chalik & Chalik Survivors Scholarship website.

Pam’s Angel Kit Gives Comfort & Warmth

 

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We all need a little love once in a while… and if you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are receiving chemotherapy, check out the Pamela A. Kearby Foundation.   To help provide comfort and alleviate some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy, the foundation delivers Pam’s Angel Kits (PAK) to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas) area FREE of charge.

 

The PAK includes items such as a soft travel pillow and a warm, cozy blanket plus an inspirational book, a glass water bottle, word search and crossword puzzle books to keep the mind active, lip balms & lotions, a PAK t-shirt and even a few nutritional snacks as a healthy diet has shown to be beneficial towards the healing process.

 

If you live outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, these bags are available for purchase.  (BTW, long term, the Foundation hopes to get these bags to as many men and women as possible, and not only for those with a breast cancer diagnosis but for any individual going through treatment regardless of where they live.)

 

If you know of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy for a diagnosis of breast cancer or if you yourself are a patient and would like one of these comforting kits, please visit the Pamela A. Kearby Foundation or email them at pamsangels12@gmail.com.

 

 

Giving Thanks for this FREE Thanksgiving Dinner

 

Fifth Season Financial is looking to donate a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings to three patients diagnosed with an advanced cancer and their families.

Here’s how it works:

Visit Fifth Season Financial.com to fill out the form on the right side of the page.  You can either nominate a patient or they can fill out the form themselves.  Entries must be made on behalf of a person who is:

  • 18 years or older
  • Diagnosed with an advanced cancer
  • A United States citizen or permanent resident

At 11:00 am on November 20, three winners will be selected. Winners will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $250 to be used at a local supermarket or food caterer.  Winners will be contacted directly so they can provide details of where their special dinner should be ordered from and sent to.

#ThankfulForYou #HappyThanksgiving

Questions to Ask Your Oncologist at the Initial Consultation

 

When we received Alan’s diagnosis of sarcoma, we were in complete shock and terrified. We could barely breathe, much less begin to have an intelligent conversation with our doctor.  Fortunately we had a day to process the diagnosis and were then able to make an attempt at preparing for our initial meeting with our medical oncologist.

 

Depending on the doctor that you are meeting with, he or she may or may not be proactive in giving you all the information you need to really understand what’s going on.  Since you don’t know ahead of time which type of doctor you’ll be meeting, it’s best to come prepared with a written list of questions you have.

 

Cancer.net and MyCancer.com are two sites that list out fantastic questions to ask your doctor before you begin cancer treatments.  Below are some of the questions found on these sites as well as from my own personal experience.  Ask only those questions that you believe would help you, and feel free to overlook those that wouldn’t.

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which treatments, or combination of treatments, do you recommend? Why?
  • What is the goal of the treatment you are recommending?  To cure or to extend life or to ease symptoms?
  • When will you know if the treatment is working and how?
  • What clinical trials (research studies involving people) are open to me?
  • Who will be part of my treatment team, and what does each member do?
  • How much experience do you (or the treatment team) have treating this type of cancer?
  • How effective and useful do you feel biomarker testing and analysis are for my particular cancer?
  • How likely is it that molecular profiling will uncover something useable for my cancer?
  • What will happen if molecular profiling identifies an “off-label” treatment that might be effective for me?
  • Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment, or is this treatment done in an outpatient clinic?
  • What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan? Do I need to be treated right away?
  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
  • What are the expected (not possible) side effects of the treatment you are recommending?
  • Will this treatment affect my fertility (ability to become pregnant or father children)?  If so, have a discussion on fertility preservation.
  • How can I keep myself as healthy as possible during treatment?
  • Are there any supplementary treatments, vitamins or nutritional aids that would help my treatments?

 

A few additional suggestions…

  • If possible, bring a friend or someone who can be objective on the appointment(s) with you.  These appointments can be overwhelming and processing all the information you will be given may be difficult to do.
  • Take notes or better yet, bring a recorder (Thank goodness for smart phones).
  • Know that at each doctor’s appointment and stage of treatment, more questions will come up.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they’re stupid.  After all, the only stupid question is a question not asked.
  • When formulating treatment plans, always get a second opinion.  Although it might seem overwhelming, second opinions will either confirm what you’ve already been told or present different options to weigh.

 

What additional questions did you ask or wished you had asked?  Do you have any additional advice for the newly diagnosed?