How To Live Alone With Cancer

Living with cancer can be very challenging due to the wide range of symptoms and potential side effects from medication. 

This article will discuss some tips that can make everyday tasks easier for those that live alone and suffer from cancer. Additionally, we will highlight strategies to get the most out of your medical appointments when you go alone to see your cancer doctor.

Can You Be Alone After Chemotherapy?

An important question to many people that undergo chemotherapy to treat their cancer is whether they can be alone afterwards.

Yes, you can be alone after chemotherapy. However, planning is required to ensure that you have been set up with all the necessary items and services to be safe at home.

This can include having meals pre-made and ready to heat up in the microwave, or arranging a cleaner to visit on occasion to help tidy up the home.

Some other common things to address prior to starting chemotherapy include:

  1. Getting safety equipment at home – in case you require additional support, obtain equipment that can be used to improve your safety and independence such as: 
  • Shower chair – reduce your risk of falling in the shower by sitting on this bathing aid
  • Bed rail – make it easier to get out of bed
  1. Using community organizations for support – hire a company in your local community to complete things that you may not have the energy to do:
  • Get meals sent to your door without worrying about cooking through a meal delivery service

  • Have yard maintenance completed without any physical effort through a landscaping company

  • Get handy work and repairs done around the home by hiring a contractor
  1. Connecting with local cancer groups for guidance – these groups can sometimes arrange peer support sessions, transportation to medical appointments, and have links to many other resources
  2. Hiring a housekeeping service – house cleaning during chemo will be difficult, so get help with household chores from a cleaning service
  3. Obtaining a medical alert system – if you are unable to reach the phone after a fall, a medical alert system worn on the wrist or around the neck can be used to call for help

Tip: Medical alert systems work well in conjunction with a lock box placed in an accessible location on the exterior of the home. A house key is put in the box and the combination can be provided to any responding emergency services. This eliminates the need for the fire department to break a locked door down to get help to you and improves the speed at which you receive care.


How to Prepare for a Doctor’s Visit or Cancer Consultation When Going Alone

Doctors are very busy individuals that manage hundreds of patients at any given time. 

As a result, the issues explored during consultations are often limited and follow up visits are usually spaced out weeks or months apart.

For this reason, it is important to address all of your concerns by being prepared for a doctor’s appointment to address all of your concerns. This can be done by following these suggestions:

  1. Use a pen and paper to take notes

When discussing cancer treatment options, it is a good idea to use a notepad to write down any important information communicated to you. This can include:

  • dates of when to complete medical tests or diagnostic imaging
  • any exercises one must follow
  • activity restrictions one must take as a precaution
  • when your next appointment will be scheduled and where it will take place
  • diet alterations to address any cardiovascular health or diabetes
  • changes in medication dosage or frequency for optimal disease management
  • who to call and when to seek emergency services if there are any complications or worsening symptoms
  • and much more
  1. Consider using an audio recorder

A lot of information is covered in a short period of time during the typical medical appointment. As a result, it may be helpful to make an audio recording of the visit that can be played back at a later point in time.

This will allow you to listen to the conversation again to verify what you need to do after the appointment and what treatment will look like. 

Having a second listen to the conversation can help eliminate many misunderstandings and help with following advice that may otherwise be forgotten if it was said only one time.

  1. Come with a prepared list of questions

It is a good idea to come to any medical consultation with a list of prepared questions that were thought of ahead of time. This reduces the risk of forgetting to ask something.

For instance, it is important to inquire about any potential adverse symptoms and side effects one may experience during chemotherapy because the opportunity to do so may be weeks or months away at the next doctor’s visit.

Having an understanding of how the body typically reacts to chemotherapy can allow you to be more prepared should any of those symptoms arise.

  1. Bring a list of current medications

It is important that the doctor is aware of your treatment plan for all your health conditions with a list of current medication. 

This helps them consider any drug interactions, and allows them to make any adjustments needed to optimize the therapeutic effect of your treatment with the goal of reducing unwanted symptoms and improving health outcomes.

Tip: Be sure to also discuss any vitamins, supplements, and other over the counter medication you are taking as this may impact the effectiveness of your treatment.

  1. Have a general summary of your health

Doctors see hundreds of patients and may not always remember everything about your care. For this reason, it is important to help them recall the most pertinent issues and what was tried previously.

A quick “elevator speech” of your general health situation can be used to refresh a doctor’s memory about your individual health needs.

Tip: Keep your health summary brief and relevant. For example, it would not be valuable for your cancer specialist to know about a pulled muscle you experienced many years ago. Try to address the most pressing cancer issues with your oncologist and defer other complaints of age related aches and pains to your general practitioner.

  1. Have a translator if needed

If English is not your first language, it is a good idea to have a translator present with you to help communicate things in your mother tongue so you can understand complicated terms and topics more easily.

If there is no family or friends available for support, ask if your doctor’s office can provide any assistance. Most hospitals have translators available to help, but advanced notice is required to arrange a meeting time.

  1. Obtain written instructions and educational material

Many doctors have pre-made brochures or packages that highlight what to expect during cancer treatment, signs or symptoms to look out for, and other important information.

It is a good idea to request a copy of this material, along with any other available educational pamphlets for further reading to learn more about cancer care.

Having info written down allows this material to be reviewed later on, so focus can be given to other more urgent matters during the doctor’s visit.

Also, you no longer have to try to remember anything that is already written down, so you can dedicate your energy to remembering and addressing other problems that are outstanding.