Take Control of Your Health

Most of the time, cancer is a complicated disease requiring specialized treatments and involving a complex team of doctors and caregivers. Your personal journey with cancer and the challenges you have or will face along the way are unique. These challenges can be from the cancer, the side effects of treatments, making decisions about your treatment, dealing with treatment staff, and from the impact cancer has on your life. It can feel overwhelming. If you are feeling this way, you are not alone.

Your health care team has the knowledge and experience to help you, but keep reminding yourself that YOU are the expert of your own health. There are many active steps you can take to get the most out of your treatments and reduce the impact of side effects on your life. Using these steps to take back some of the control of your care and your life can go a long way toward improving your day-to-day life.

This kind of self-management may seem like a new idea, but you already do this every day; whether it’s your choices for fitting exercise into your day or getting to bed on time. It is taking control of your health by doing small things each day that add up to make a big difference in how you feel. Here are some steps to make it easier for you improve your self-management skills:

5 Steps to Take Action for Better Self-Management

Step One: Identify your goals. Step back and think about the sorts of things that are causing you the most problems. Is it a symptom of cancer? A side effect of treatment? Something happening in your life outside of cancer treatment? Choose 2-3 challenges you want to work on and then identify the goals that will help you manage them. For example, you may want to improve the quality of your sleep or you may want to eat better and exercise more to lessen the tiredness you’ve been having.

Step Two: Create a Plan. Now that you have goals to work on, think through where you want to start and what steps you want to take to achieve your goals. Each goal should have its own plan. The Action Decks in the Springboard Beyond Cancer website are examples of the sorts of steps you might take to help you achieve your goals. You can use those Action Decks, create your own, or develop a plan on your own.

Step Three: Identify potential challenges. No matter how solid a plan is, there are almost always challenges that happen unexpectedly and make it difficult to reach your goals. Think about what sorts of problems and potential challenges might throw you off track. Then make a strategy for how to overcome them. For example, if your goal is to exercise more and your plan is to take a 20-minute walk every day, how will you deal with bad weather? Maybe your solution to this challenge would be to go for a walk in a large indoor space, like at the mall.

Step Four: Monitor your progress. Doing this helps you to see what is working well and where you might need to make a few changes. Even though this is a key step in getting more control over cancer’s impact on your life, many of us forget to do this step. Writing down your goals and tracking your progress and when you get stuck lets you see how you are doing over time. Try setting a consistent time during the day to check in with yourself and keeping track of your progress in a journal, chart, or on your calendar or phone.

Step Five: Re-assess the plan. Look at what you have been tracking. How is it going? Ask yourself, what has worked well and what other steps might get you closer to your goal? Think about how you might want to change your plan, or goals, keep moving forward. Talk to your health care team or your family and friends about your plans and your progress.

Taking back some of the control of your life from cancer is not easy. Using these 5 steps, communicating with your health care team, asking for support from the important people in your life, and using the many tools on Springboard Beyond Cancer are all ways that can help you improve your health.