Coping with advanced pancreatic cancer

Coping day-to-day with advanced cancer can be an uncertain and worrying time. You might be worried about your treatment and how it will affect you. Or you may worry about practical things such as your work and finances.

It is fine to ask for help. Family members, friends or support groups can help provide emotional support. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help with practical tasks if you begin to feel overwhelmed.

It can be helpful to take control of the things you can do something about. You could find out more about your cancer and how to get the best from your cancer services. Try talking to your doctor or nurse to find out about what help is available in your area.

It is important to look after yourself. Remember to take any medicines you have been prescribed and try to eat as healthy a diet as you can. Staying physically active if you feel well enough can help to improve symptoms. Some people also use complementary therapies to help them cope.

Coping with advanced cancer

Coping with advanced cancer can mean living with doubt and uncertainty. You may be concerned about practical matters, such as your work or finances. Or you may be worried about your treatment, pain or other symptoms. You might also feel anxious about losing your independence or mobility. Sometimes, you may worry about how your loved ones will cope as the cancer develops. These are all common thoughts to have.

Uncertainty is one of the hardest things to deal with for you and your family and friends. It is especially tough when you are trying to live life as normally as possible. It can cause a lot of tension. You may feel irritable, angry and frightened. It is difficult to make plans when you do not know what is ahead. Even your doctors cannot say for sure what is likely to happen or give you full answers to your questions.

But many people find they can learn to live with uncertainty. One thing that can help is taking control of the things they can do something about.

What you can do

One of the hardest things to cope with can be the feeling that the cancer and its treatment have taken over your life. This is a common feeling, but there are lots of things you can do.

There may be days when you feel too tired to even think about what could help. You’ll have good and bad days, but if you’re overwhelmed by these feelings, let your doctor or nurse know. It may be that you have depression, and this is treatable so they should be able to help.

Finding ways to cope

You may find it helps to try to carry on with life as normally as possible, by staying in contact with friends and keeping up your usual activities. Or you may want to decide on new priorities in your life. This could mean spending more time with family, going on the holiday you have dreamed about or taking up a new hobby. Just thinking about these things and making plans can help you realise that you still have choices.

Some people want to improve their general health by eating a more healthy diet, by getting fitter or by finding a relaxing complementary therapy.

Understanding about the cancer and its treatment helps many people cope. It means they can discuss plans for treatment, tests and check-ups with their doctors and nurses. Being involved in these choices can help give you back control of your life.

Complementary therapies

Some people find that complementary therapies can reduce symptoms and help them feel better. It is important to discuss your planned therapy with your specialist or GP. This is to check that there are no reasons why you should not have the therapy. If they think certain therapies might interact with your treatment or cause harm, they will advise against having them.

Many hospitals and hospices offer complementary therapies. Treatments may include acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy and relaxation techniques.

Relatives or carers can give you complementary therapies such as gentle massage. This can also help them support you.

If you live alone

It may be very hard to keep positive and be optimistic if you live alone. Even though you may value your independence, being ill can make you feel very lonely and frightened.

It’s all right to ask for help. People who care about you will want to help in any way they can. Some people will find it difficult to talk, but may be happy to help in more practical ways, such as doing your shopping or helping with your garden. You could make a list of practical things that would make your life easier. If people offer to help but are not sure what to do, you can show it to them. They can then choose to do something that will help you.

Other people may be able to listen to you and share your worries and fears.

Marie Curie has a free helper service available in parts of the UK. Someone can come over for a cup of tea, help you get to an appointment, run an errand, or just be there to listen when you need a friendly ear. For more information, visit the Marie Curie website or call 0800 090 2309.

Your GP, social worker, or district or community nurse will also be able to tell you what help and support is available from health, social care and voluntary organisations.

I committed myself to going to the gym, to practicing meditation and joining a support group. By doing this, it brought me to a sense that I was not alone.


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Who can help?

Many people are available to help you and your family.