There’s no doubt that metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) affects every aspect of your life.
As you work with your doctors, friends, and family, you’ll learn many ways to maintain the best quality of life possible. In the meantime, here are some tips to get you started.
A diagnosis of metastatic NSCLC can leave you with a lot of questions. You have every right to ask them.
Your healthcare team is there to answer your concerns about treatment options, goals, and what you need to do to maintain a good quality of life. There’s no reason to hold back.
Once you and your oncologist have agreed on treatment goals and chosen specific therapies, it’s important to follow the plan.
If you’re not satisfied with how your treatment is going, don’t just stop it. Make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor. Together you can decide on the next steps and take them safely.
You might be tempted to put a positive spin on everything to spare loved ones from stress. But remember, you’re not a burden to them. You can all benefit from sharing your emotions with each other in mutual support.
Turn to the people closest to you for emotional support. Friends and family can also help you manage your everyday tasks when you feel too overwhelmed.
Metastatic NSCLC affects every part of your life. You might find it helpful to talk to others who are going through something similar.
Look into support groups for people with metastatic cancers or lung cancers. You can get and give advice on how to manage your emotional well-being. You can also exchange realistic tips for everyday living. You can choose from online and in-person support groups to suit your needs.
Your oncologist or treatment center can provide information on local groups. You can also check out:
- The American Lung Association’s Lung Cancer Survivors Community
- CancerCare’s Lung Cancer Patient Support Group
If support groups aren’t your thing, or you’re looking for something more, individual therapy might be a good option. Ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist experienced in working with people with metastatic cancer.
You can receive palliative care whether you’re receiving other treatments or not. This type of care isn’t to treat the cancer itself. Instead, it eases symptoms and helps you feel better every day.
Palliative care can address symptoms due to cancer or side effects of other treatment, such as:
- breathing difficulties
- poor appetite
- sleep problems
A palliative care specialist will tailor treatment to your changing needs.
Treatment for metastatic NSCLC can feel overwhelming and stressful at times. Feelings of anxiety and depression don’t have to be put on the back burner because you have cancer. Your mental health is crucial to your quality of life and should be tended to.
Talk to your oncologist or oncology nurse. They may be able to help or recommend a doctor who can help you. Think of this as part of your palliative care.
Keeping treatment appointments, prepping meals, taking care of errands, and doing housework can get to be too much. Consider getting help before things start to pile up.
Family, friends, and neighbors can juggle some of these responsibilities, but there are other sources of practical help. Here are a few places to get started:
- The American Cancer Society offers a searchable database where you can look for information on lodging when you go for treatment, rides to treatment, online communities and support, and more. You can even speak with patient navigators to help you find what you need.
- The Lung Helpline offered by the American Lung Association is staffed with experts who can direct you to services based on your needs.
- CancerCare’s A Helping Hand is a database of organizations that provide a host of practical support services for people with cancer.
Direct and indirect costs of metastatic NSCLC are hard to calculate. There are a number of programs designed to help. You might want to look into them, even if you don’t need them yet.
Your oncology office or treatment center should be able to help you navigate issues relating to your health insurance. They can also set up payment plans where appropriate.
Depending on your situation, other sources of financial assistance include:
- American Lung Association Lung Helpline
- CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Medicine Assistance Tool
- Patient Action Network (PAN) FundFinder
- Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief Program
- Social Security Administration
Your doctor or treatment center can probably provide a list of other valuable resources.
You’re making a lot of decisions right now, but it may help to make some for the future. It will be easier for you and for your loved ones if your wishes are clear.
Ask your doctor to walk you through the issue or consult with an attorney on matters such as:
- Living will, advance directive. These legal documents detail medical treatments you want and those you do not want in the event you can’t speak for yourself.
- Power of attorney. You name someone who can make healthcare decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself.
- Do not resuscitate (DNR), do not intubate (DNI) orders. Your doctor can put these orders into your medical record even if you don’t have a living will or advance directive.
Life shouldn’t be all about your cancer and cancer treatment. Socialize. Hang out with friends. Spend time on your hobbies. Stay as active and involved as you can. Continue to do the things that bring you pleasure.