Tips for Resting and Self Care During Chemo

When you are fighting cancer, it means that a lot of your time is spent getting treatments, such as chemo. It can also mean a lot of time being sick or in bed. This fight and the resulting symptoms can be draining not only physically, but emotionally as well. You may not even feel like yourself. But during this time, it is important to rest and practice self care, which can help you feel better and maybe even a little more like yourself. 

Have a Chemo Recovery Kit

Chemo is tough on the body and spirit so create a recovery kit for yourself. Include unscented lotion, ginger sodas, saltine crackers, a good water bottle, a soft toothbrush, plenty of soft facial tissues for your runny nose. Keep handy items to keep you warm such as a cozy  blanket, fuzzy socks, loose and soft pajamas, a hat and scarf. When you take care of these physical aspects of the symptoms from chemo, you will feel a little better. 

Enjoy Quiet Time

Quiet time could just be enjoying a quieter activity, such as reading or listening to a podcast. You might also consider meditation or just thinking calmly and focusing on an uplifting, positive mantra. It’s important to feel calm as you heal. Anxiety and worry can actually slow down your healing. Just focus on one day at a time and be present in the moment. 

Start a Journal

Writing down your feelings can be extremely helpful. Journaling can help you work through any emotions you may be experiencing, help to ease a worried mind and lower stress levels. If you can’t write, try typing. If you are unable to even do that, consider starting a voice memo journal. There are plenty of apps for your smartphone that help you to create and store voice memos. 

Binge Your Favorite Shows or Movies

Indulge yourself by binging your favorite TV shows or movies. It’s a great sedentary activity for times when you just can’t get out of bed or off the sofa. Plus, it can take your mind off of any worries and stress you may have!

Prioritize Sleep

Don’t feel guilty about sleeping more than you usually do after a chemo treatment. Sleep is an incredibly important part of the healing process and can help to calm a worried mind. 

Enjoy the Outdoors

If you have the energy and it is a nice day, consider sitting outside on your porch or taking a short walk to enjoy some fresh air. Simply taking a few moments to enjoy nature can lift your mood when you need it. Don’t forget to dress for the weather and wear a hat to shade your face from the sun. 

Spend Time with Those You Love

Don’t feel bad about saying no to someone or something if you don’t have the energy, but when you do, make sure to spend time with those you love most. Social interaction is important to our mental health, boosts our mood and makes us feel connected. And it is at these times when you will need to lean on your family and friends most. If you are immune compromised and need to limit your exposure, try connecting over a phone call or video call.

How to Stay Positive After a Hard Diagnosis

Receiving a difficult diagnosis is scary and devastating for anyone. I’m not here to tell you that you must be positive at all times after that diagnosis. In fact, it is important to work through all of your emotions. You are not required to feel good or positive everyday. But having negative thoughts day-in and day-out is self-defeating. 

Be Honest with Yourself

The first step to allowing yourself to stay positive is to be honest with yourself and your friends and family about how you feel. This will allow you to better understand your own emotions and work through any negative thoughts, giving you the ability to counter them with more specific positive thoughts. Not only that, but it gives you the opportunity to lean on your support system. Knowing that you are not alone is half the battle in staying positive after a difficult diagnosis. 

Understand Your Diagnosis

One of the scariest things about a difficult diagnosis is not understanding the illness and any possible treatment. Arm yourself with knowledge by learning about your diagnosis. Being prepared can help you stay positive. Awareness of any symptoms will lessen the shock of them as they begin to develop. Consider booking an extended session with your doctor to learn more about your diagnosis and any treatment options. 

Seek out Those Like You

Not knowing what happens next can often be more scary than the diagnosis itself. Expand your support group beyond friends and family by seeking out those with the same or similar diagnosis as you. You will be able to commiserate together or  look for silver linings together. But most of all, you will also learn invaluable information from those who have been there. 

Focus on Other Things

Continue to enjoy the things you love. If you can no longer do those things, don’t stew over that loss. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to discover new things. When we focus on hobbies or other such things, it can keep you busy and your mind off of your diagnosis–at least for a while. 

Set Small Goals

Your illness may prevent you from doing many everyday tasks. You may feel guilty that you can no longer do what you once did. Instead of berating yourself over it, set smaller goals then celebrate your victories. Over time, you’ll notice how much they add up!

Spend Time with Friends and Family

I’ve mentioned surrounding yourself with a support network a few times and it really can’t be said enough. These are the people who, without saying a word, can remind you why it is important to fight and what makes life so wonderful.

Be sure to surround yourself with those who are positive and cut out or minimize any toxic relationships. You don’t need that negativity or drama in your life. If you must spend time with people who are negative, have a trusted friend or family member by your side who is able to say no when you can’t, or ask them to leave when it is time. 

Meditation and Mantras

Consider using meditation, mindful breathing, or repeating a positive mantra to center yourself when you feel like you are reeling with negative emotions and thoughts. Spending just a few minutes each day doing this can ease stress and anxiety, paving the way for more positive energy. If you need help with meditation or mindful breathing, there are plenty of apps that you can download and use for free on your smart device. 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

This age old adage certainly has a lot of truth to it. Laughter has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety. While it may be hard to laugh when you are suffering from an illness, it can help you stay in a more positive mindset. Surround yourself with those who make you laugh and put you at ease, so you don’t feel pressure to be humorous yourself. 

How to Live a Positive Life When You Live With a Disease

When your life is inexplicably altered by a disease or illness, it can be hard to stay positive. It is also hard to hear others constantly tell you to look on the bright side, especially when it can be difficult to see past all the negative feelings. However, your mental health plays an important role in fighting a disease or learning to live with a chronic illness. If athletes are told to visualize winning to help them do their best, the same can be said for those suffering from health conditions. The old saying of “attitude is everything” really does matter. You don’t have to be positive all the time, but being negative all the time can have serious effects on your mental health, and it can also affect your physical health.

Be Kind To Yourself

If you were recently diagnosed with a disease or illness, it is important to give yourself time to work through your emotions. It is natural to feel sad, disappointed and even angry. You may be grieving the loss of your health and your former life. Allow yourself the time to go through all your emotions, seeking counseling if you feel you need it. Remember, to not be upset with yourself if you need time off from your daily duties to heal or rest. And don’t forget to practice a little self care. Whether that is a hot bath and a good book, a spay day or meditation, pampering plays a big role in lifting your spirits when you need it.

Count Your Blessings

While you may have lost many aspects of your life, it is important to remember what you still have and can do, even if it is something small. Think of those who love you and support you. Celebrate the little victories like being able to take the dog on a short walk.

Enjoy the Little Things

It’s those happy little moments that make us smile. When you are in one of those moments, like baking with the kids or grandkids or going to a restaurant with delicious food, take the time to savor the moment. These little moments, especially those we share with the ones we love, are what lift us all up. 

Do What Makes You Happy

It is important to do and enjoy the things that make life worth living. Doing something that makes you happy, whether it is painting, reading, watching a movie with friends, doing a puzzle or some other activity, feeds our souls. It reminds us why we fight each day so we can have more moments like this. 

Do Something Nice for Someone Else

One of the best ways to stay positive is to make the world a better place. Hold the door open for someone who has their hands full, bring some cookies to an elderly neighbor during the holiday season, call up the friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Do something nice for someone else doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. Even the smallest act of kindness can lift your spirits as well as the person you’re doing something nice for. 

Prepare For A Cancer Battle: The Mental Fight

How to mentally prepare for cancer battle

The cancer journey is one filled with many appointments, tests, prescriptions, protocols and procedures directed by the scientific method. All of this is focused on fighting a physical enemy. However, there’s an potential unseen enemy that can strike any cancer patient. That potential enemy which can affect almost anyone at almost any time is one’s own mind.

A study by the American Cancer Society shared that “In our observational study, we found people who found feelings of transcendence or meaningfulness or peace reported feeling the least physical problems.” 

Yes, our minds can be one of our most powerful weapons in a cancer battle, or one of our harshest enemies.  The surprisingly simple truth is that we can choose to use it as a weapon or allow it to be an enemy. The mind is a powerful thing as you’re fighting cancer, so it’s important that we mentally prepare for the our physical battle. 

So, how do we prepare to fight cancer with mental strength?  Here are a few suggestions to get us going in the right direction, whether we’re facing cancer, another ailment, or simply a hard day at the office:

  1. Focus on hope. Hope is essential and it can be one the thing that helps you stay positive. Look for signs of hope everywhere, even if it’s outside of your own circumstance. Remind yourself of times when hope helped in the past. Let hope be present daily, even if circumstances in the moment are difficult.
  2. Be realistic. Being realistic doesn’t mean you aren’t being positive. You can have hope, and yet accept that there are some aspects of the cancer battle that simply are hard. You may experience pain and struggle. Think hard about and utilize your coping strategies so that you can stay hopeful in the midst of it. 
  3. Focus on your purpose. Is there something greater that can come out of your cancer journey?  We all have a “why” behind what we do in life and if we can focus on the bigger journey and greater purpose, we can know that our present circumstances are not in vain. 
  4. Pray and/or Meditate. This may look different to each person, but by quieting your our minds and focusing on the right things, with prayer and meditation, you we can make great strides. The effort required to set aside regularly the quiet moments for this can be significant, but it can help tremendously.
  5. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Who is on your team? Are they lifting you up or filling you with worry? Are they helping your move forward or helping you live in fear? Be intentional about what voices you choose to listen to.
  6. Take a digital break. Sometimes Dr. Google and the highlight reel on social media is the last thing you need. Taking a hiatus from the digital world can do you wonders and help your mind focus on your own present circumstance. 

The mind is a powerful thing and can make or break us when walking through cancer or our daily lives. While you might not find value in all of the things above, and you might have a few things to add to the list, my hope is that you find ways that work for you to protect and utilize your mind. Let’s focus on having a healthy mental outlook today!

Basic Cancer Terminology

Cancer Lingo: Basic Words To Understand

When you hear the word cancer you may already feel like someone isn’t speaking English to you, and it can get worse with some of the medical jargon being thrown around, especially if you don’t have a background in healthcare or medical science. It’s important to understand what’s going on with your health or your loved one’s health and you need answers. But if you don’t understand the words being used, how can you even begin to find the right questions, let alone cope with what’s happening? 

Here are some basics to help you navigate your journey. These examples may not be the exact discussion you have had with your doctor, but the words will most likely be similar and hopefully dissecting the parts will help you piece things together.

  1. Biopsy:  A biopsy is where they took a sample of your tissue and anything that is “atypical” is considered to be “abnormal.” 
  2. Atypical:  This word is a medical way of saying “abnormal.”  Doctors may use this word to describe cells or body tissues that look unusual under a microscope.
  3. Malignant:  The fact that something is malignant means that it’s cancerous, it would be nice to hear the word benign, which means that the tumor or mass is not cancerous, but that’s not always the case.  
  4. Remission is when there are no longer any signs or symptoms of cancer, but it does not mean the cancer has been cured.  
  5. Prognosis: A medical word for “outlook.”  It is used to talk about your chances for recovery, chance of disease returning, and what your doctor is expecting. 
  6. Metastasized:  Metastasized describes cancer which has spread beyond its organ of origin.
  7. Stage:  Cancer typically is given a stage from 1-4 in order to categorize the extent to which the cancer has spread, if at all.  Stage IV, the most severe, means the cancer has spread to organs distant from its organ of origin. 
  8. Grade:  How aggressive the cancer is, the higher the grade the more aggressive the cancer.  The Grade of the disease may be numeric (often 1-3) or the word “differentiated may be used, as in well differentiated (lower grade) or poorly differentiated (higher grade). Grade of disease and stage of disease are independent characteristics of the disease.  Grade 1 disease can be Stage 4 disease.

When you get a diagnosis, it’s important to learn the language, the language of cancer. It’s important to start educating yourself so that you can be the best advocate for your health that you can. You don’t need to have gone to medical school to fight cancer with strength, but knowing a little bit of the lingo can certainly help!

How to Cope with a Cancer Diagnosis


There’s no script that lays out all the scenarios and responses, there are a lot of different paths you can take but not all paths lead to the same place, and what’s right for one person, may not be right for another; so many clichés but all so true. Often it may seem you’re traversing this cancer world without a guide, a light, a sign or known destination, which can cause all kinds of emotions to boil over. Acknowledging these emotions and accepting them are not always an easy task. Sometimes we want to push away the sadness or embrace the anger or pretend to be happy when we aren’t. Eventually your mind and body are going to rebel, leading to total body exhaustion. In order to avoid a catastrophic emotional event, both intrinsic and extrinsic battles need to be encountered in healthy, productive ways. Because the one thing you can count on through any traumatic event or terminal illness is having emotions and the best thing you can do for yourself is learn how to appropriately cope with them.

Mental Battles

The word coping can often be confused with moving on. This is not the case, in fact, coping doesn’t mean figuring out how to get over things, it means patiently teaching yourself ways to get through things. Physical battles are much easier to spot, but mental battles are much more difficult to notice and address, especially with your loved ones. The first thing you can do is educate yourself so you can educate those you love. Be mentally prepared to answer difficult questions that you may not fully understand the answer to just yet. Create a to do list and set achievable goals to help organize thoughts and tasks, freeing up vital brain space that is needed to tackle other mental challenges.

Understand Control

Understand that control now has to be delegated. Truly look at what you can and cannot control and decide what you are going to do about each thing. Talking to others and enlisting their help serves two purposes; it helps you cross things off your list and it allows those you love to contribute and feel useful during this difficult time. If you can control other aspects of your health such as exercise and eating habits, then exert your control in those areas. If you can’t control when the doctor calls you back to deliver test results, then waiting will become part of accepting. If the waiting piece is something you are having a difficult time coping with, then finding outlets like music, painting; whatever craft or hobby will help you pass the time, will ease the pain of patience.

Coping consists of so many different pieces to the puzzle and what can be overlooked in the process is the idea that telling people is the most difficult part. In reality, it’s their reactions afterwards that can cause the most pain and internal suffering. Coping is not just a thing, or a word, or a mechanism, it’s a process. And every process takes time and practice.

How to Deal with a Cancer Diagnosis in the Family:

Getting a cancer diagnosis is no small thing. Everyone is different, every situation is different, and every family is different, so just remember that what works for some does not always work for everyone. A lot of people don’t know how to react or what to say when someone they know is going through a loss. And it is a loss, because even though your family member is still with you, no matter what that time frame looks like, life will irrevocably be different from this point on and you are losing a small piece of the life you had before the diagnosis. 

So you will hear all kinds of things from the people around you on what to do and who you can talk to and so on and so on……it’s coming from a good place, but no one truly knows what you’re experiencing except for you. As you go through these tips and thoughts, keep that in mind.

Listen

When someone is dealing with a disease like cancer or any disease for that matter, listening can be HUGE. A lot of times we think we are listening, but we are actually interrupting or waiting to tell our story or give our input; truly listening is difficult to do. Most of the time, it’s the best thing we can do. We don’t always need to respond or ask a question or anything, we just need to be present and listen to our person. 

One of the most powerful ways to show that we care is by being there, listening to whatever it is they need to get off their chest. Plus, when someone feels they are being listened to, it helps them be open and present in the moment, two things that are not easy to do when you first find out your diagnosis. When your sense of control is lost, having control over the smallest things can have the largest impact.

Maintain A Schedule

Which leads to another important point, maintaining a sense of normalcy in a tumultuous time is part of that control piece and it is no easy task. It takes patience, planning, and persistence. The conversation doesn’t always have to be about cancer, the schedule needs to stay relatively similar with some changes as needed, and there will be times you want to give up. But don’t. 

You can do this. 

Respect & Offer Support

Respect your family members’ decisions when it comes to how they want to approach things whether that’s the overall conversation or the schedule and go with it. When you do offer to help them, try to recommend or do specific things. Asking someone who already has a trillion things running through their mind what you can do, is simply adding to their list of things. 

And even though they are going through something extremely devastating, don’t forget that you are in it as well, make sure you take care of yourself so that you are able to be there for your family.

The Hard Work of Facing Fears

Fear can stop us in our tracks more than just about anything. We can be afraid to speak up, take that step, reach out, or even right a book. Writing a book can actually be a very scary thing to do, and I know that firsthand! But, we don’t have to let fear consume us and stop us. When you’re faced with a scary diagnosis like cancer, or you are dealing with something else entirely, fear does NOT have to control your life. 

I know it feels impossible to consider, but the more we face fear, the easier it becomes to face it in the future. Here are a few things to do to help put fear in its place:  

  1. Recognize it and appreciate it. Fear is not altogether a bad thing. Often, fear is a signal to us that we are entering into something that is high-risk, and that could mean that our life or well-being may be compromised. Fear has been part of the survival process for thousands of years and it has its place. You can recognize it and call it out, but not let it dictate what you do with your life. There’s a difference.
  2. Look bigger. When we are thinking about fear, it often is in the immediate moment, but if we consider how things fit into the big picture and long-term journey, it’s easier to face. We can do hard things when we know they have a longer, lasting impact. The momentary struggle is real, but it may be worth it in the bigger picture. 
  3. Don’t go alone. Fear seems to diminish the more you have people by your side. Going at hard things alone is so daunting. Going at hard things with friends means it’s not all up to you. You don’t have to be the only one facing this fear or challenge.
  4. Get help. Getting help is one of the bravest things you can do in life. It’s hard to admit you can’t do it all alone. I’ve found, that when you are facing hard seasons of life, you may need to get help from others: doctors, family, meal planning, house-cleaning, and more. The more help you get, the more you can focus on facing your fears head on.
  5. Share your journey. You have a story to tell the world and my guess is that you’ve learned a thing or two from your experiences and struggles. I know I have. The more you can share with others, the more you can help them realize that they, too, can face their fears. That’s my hope in writing my book “Hey Cancer, F**K You.”  I call it a memoir with a message because I want to share what I’ve learned in my cancer journey with others. My struggles and fears are not without purpose. 

Sometimes we have no choice but to face our fears. Life brings us things like cancer and we are forced to face things that are really and truly fearful. We all have the power to face these fears with strength. I hope you find ways to face your own fears today as well.

Greetings from Kip

Hello, my name is Lewis “Kip” Shaw, author of Hey Cancer, F**K You! and I was diagnosed with an incurable, metastatic, nonfunctioning pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2004.

   It’s regrettable that we’re becoming acquainted under these circumstances.  For patients, care givers and members of the support system I understand how overwhelming your situation is.  Being diagnosed with metastatic cancer is a very challenging situation and faith and courage are essential to meeting the challenge.

   Metastatic cancer is incredibly complicated and there are significant differences between cancer types.  Scores of intertwined and interconnected biochemical pathways are involved.  Additionally each one of us is unique. Consequently one’s response to a drug or treatment and the side effects experienced are individual.  

   Helpful endeavors include: becoming as informed as possible about your disease, obtaining consultation with at least one nonlocal expert in the disease, joining suitable list serve/Facebook groups dedicated to your cancer type and developing a regimen of supplements.

Have a Cancer “Action Plan”

One of the first and most fundamental “action plans” which a cancer patient must develop with their local oncologist is – What do I do when I get a fever?  

At a minimum the plan should include what temperature defines a fever, what (and what dose) to take for the fever and when you are to notify your local oncologist and/or seek medical evaluation.

The action plan needs to be developed in advance, in part because it is not feasible uniformly to predict when one will develop a fever. Unless the specific details of your plan are different, a patient with active, metastatic cancer who develops a high fever should undergo prompt medical evaluation.