Sometimes coping with remission may be difficult. You did it! While the term remission is not often heard in the GIST community, it does apply. If you’re doctor has told you that your last scan shows “No Evidence of Disease” or “NED”, then you are in remission. Being diagnosed and undergoing treatment for cancer is a difficult, exhaustive and time-consuming event in a cancer survivor’s life. Between doctor’s appointments, CT or PET scans, off-days and sick-days, little time is left for you. While this is by no means a desired experience, it allows a person to focus on one goal: to get better. When this does happen, often people are unsure of how to feel and how to live their lives. Sometimes, patients experience “survivor’s guilt” if friends or even family are still going through treatment. It important that you remember that your friends and family care about you and want you to enjoy your life.
Tips for Coping with Remission:
Enjoy Your Life
You have worked so hard to get this time back, use it! Keep busy! Start becoming more active and social. Don’t be afraid to make long term plans; show yourself and those around you that this is a new phase in your life.
Stay Positive and Hopeful
Whether you believe that positive energy keeps you healthy and wards off sickness or not, feeling bad or nervous or sad certainly doesn’t help your general state of well-being. Do things that bring you happiness. Don’t make compromises with yourself or your time; it is your life to live and no one else’s.
Live a Healthy Life
Now that you are NED, you should be careful about your health and well-being. Be wary of your nutrition and exercise habits.
There’s no current research that suggests that the foods you eat will prevent your cancer from recurring. But, we do know that eating right will help you regain your strength, rebuild tissue, and help you feel well. Here are the fundamentals: • Focus on eating a variety of foods every day. No one food contains all the nutrients you need. • Emphasize fruits and vegetables. Raw or cooked vegetables, fruits, and fruit juices provide the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need. However, if you are taking Gleevec, be sure to avoid grapefruit juice. • Emphasize breads and cereals, especially the whole grain varieties, such as whole wheat bread, oats, and brown rice. These foods are good sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. • Go easy on fat, salt, sugar, alcohol, and smoked or pickled foods. Choose low-fat milk products, and small portions (no more than 6-7 oz. a day) of lean meat and poultry without skin. Try lower-fat cooking methods, such as broiling, steaming, and poaching. Even if your treatment is over and you’re feeling much better, you still may not feel completely back to your old self. Here are some ways to help you ease back to regular meals and mealtimes, without overdoing it: • Make simple meals using familiar, easy-to-prepare recipes. • Cook enough for two or three meals, then freeze the remainder for a later meal. • Take advantage of the supermarket’s salad bar and prepared foods to make cooking easier. • Think about ways you used to make mealtime special and try them again. • Don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member for help with cooking or shopping.
Researchers have established that regular physical activity can improve health by:
- helping to control weight,
- maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints,
- reducing the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes,
- promoting psychological well-being reducing the risk of death from heart disease, and
- reducing the risk of premature death.
Research has shown that exercise can reduce the risk of colon and breast cancer. While research does not exist as to its impact on GIST, it will still have an effect on your overall sense of wellness. As long as the doctor feels you are ready and you feel up to it, exercise a little. Try to do exercises that will challenge you, but will not hurt you. There is a difference between stretching and causing stress to your muscles. Start off slowly if you feel uncomfortable. Do some yoga or stretching in your own living room or try walking or swimming.
Stay on Top of It
While GIST should no longer be the dominant factor in your life; make sure that you maintain your follow-up care. Here are some things to think about:
- Talk to your doctor about symptoms that worry you
- Which doctors you need to see and how often
- Which scans you need to have and how often
Read about Scanziety for help dealing with anxiety in remission.