10 Ways to Help Manage Your Cancer Care

Treatment // October 16, 2015

Simply hearing the word “cancer” can suddenly make life feel overwhelming. Questions can flood your mind, and it can be paralyzing simply thinking about all the different things that now become part of your life.

10. Start a Survivorship Care Plan

Although people define survivorship differently, it’s important from a psychological perspective to adopt the attitude of a survivor from Day 1 of your diagnosis. Developing a Survivorship Care Plan in which you detail your conversations with doctors, write down information about appointments and medications, and even keep track of what you eat and how you feel each day can be an important step in the process of managing your cancer care.

9. Understand Your Medical Benefits

Maybe you’ve never really paid attention – perhaps your spouse always chose the insurance coverage, or maybe you just went with the basic plan offered at work. Or perhaps you simply never needed to really understand terms like catastrophic coverage and maximum out-of-pocket until now.

Sitting down and getting a detailed view of your medical benefits can be an important step to managing your care. Medical insurance is designed to help take some of the stress off your mind in times of medical emergency, and knowing exactly what is – and isn’t – covered is a good way to do that.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What things are covered automatically and what do I need to get pre-approved?
  • How much do I have to pay? Is there a cap on my out-of-pocket expenses?
  • Can I get secondary coverage?
  • Am I eligible for Medicare or Medicaid?

Also, many insurance companies will assign case managers to help you navigate your benefits. Your case manager can help you ensure the proper paperwork is completed, and make sure your benefits are paid on time.

8. Seek Help

When faced with a crisis and a new way of living, it might be difficult to ask for help. Help can come in many forms, from professional advice about managing your finances to personal help like cooking meals or providing transportation.

In addition to seeking help from relatives, friends, co-workers, and others, there are a number of organizations out there that can provide help with things like meals or transportation, so be sure to ask around and see what is available in your local area. Doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities may know about resources that aren’t generally known. Also, your local or state health department office might have information available as well.

7. Focus on the Details

Sometimes, getting down into the weeds is a good thing, because it can help bring things into a manageable perspective. Rather than looking at all the things you have to do – bills to pay, appointments to keep, tasks to accomplish – narrow down to one specific item that you can take care of right now.

By focusing on the details, not only are you better able to get things done, but the sense of accomplishment will help you feel less overwhelmed. Overall, that is better in the long run, not only for your mood, but also for your health, as it will help reduce your stress.

6. Know Your Rights

When it comes to medical care, you have certain rights under the law that are meant to help you. For example, in the United States, the passage of the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare) provided a number of rights to patients, including:

  • The ability to get health insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition
  • The right to an easy-to-understand overview of your health insurance benefits and coverage
  • Entitlement to certain types of screenings without having to pay extra fees
  • A clear explanation for any refusal to pay for a medical treatment or service, and the ability to contest that refusal
  • Additional rights to avoid undue payment increases and cancellation of service

In addition to these health-care rights, you also have rights as a consumer to find a health plan that works for you, to have access to emergency services, and to take part in making decisions about your own treatment, among other things.

Finally, you have financial protections as well under laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. For example, debt collectors are not allowed to harass you or call you at inconvenient times. You also have the right to demand proof that you actually owe the debt the collector is claiming.

5. Ask for Itemized Bills

Medical bills aren’t always the easiest to read. When getting bills from a medical provider or some other service provider, make sure it shows every service provided and any items, supplies, or drugs associated with that care. Not only can it help you identify any potential mistakes, but you also might be able negotiate costs related to specific items. Furthermore, it can help you come tax time by making it easier to itemize your deductible expenses from your income.

4. Keep Communicating

It’s easy to let lines of communication fall dormant, especially if you are not feeling well physically or are emotionally drained due to treatments, appointments, and other demands being placed on you.

Nonetheless, it’s important to stay in regular communication with your doctors, family, support groups, health insurance companies, financial advisors, and others to make sure you know what’s going on. It’s especially important not to hide how you’re feeling, physically and emotionally – in addition to building trust by being honest with friends and family, it can help give your doctor clues as to how medications are affecting your body.

3. Think & Eat Healthy

You may be feeling tired and want to skimp on meals or skip out on your daily exercise, but that may not be the best idea. While you may have to adjust your habits somewhat, continuing to eat healthy foods and maintaining as much of an active lifestyle as you can may actually help you in many ways. For one thing, it can help boost your overall immune system, which is critical at a time when you need it most.

As with other things, make sure you talk with your doctor to understand how much physical activity you should maintain. Also, it’s a good idea to discuss your dietary needs and any potential restrictions while you undergo your cancer treatments.

2. Find a Community

In addition to getting support from those they already know – such as relatives and friends – many people who undergo cancer discover new communities from which that can draw encouragement, consolation, and strength.

Your community can come in many shapes and forms, from support groups or church groups to book clubs or even the people you see each time you go to an appointment. Finding out that you have cancer doesn’t mean you have to give up on making new friends; it can be an opportunity to discover whole new groups of people you can relate to.

1. Explore Your Needs

If for some reason you find you can’t do something on this list, that’s okay. These are coping ideas, not mandates.

Some of these may work really well for you, while others may wind up being more taxing than they are helpful. In the end, it’s all about finding things that help you cope best.