Surviving cancer: Thriving after a diagnosis

By The Health News Team | November 2, 2022
Loving couple hugging

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, many questions and concerns can take over a person’s thoughts. While some of these issues will be covered by doctors and other health care providers during appointments and treatments, some worries may go unvoiced — and unaddressed. Sharp HealthCare hopes to amend this.

Sharp’s Cancer Survivorship Program will offer a free webinar, featuring a physician keynote speaker, an oncology dietician and two oncology social workers, titled “Surviving Cancer: Thriving After a Diagnosis.” This webinar will be presented Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 am to 12:30 pm. Patients, families, and caregivers are welcome to learn about a variety of topics important to health and well-being — from sexual health to nutrition — during the cancer treatment journey.

Self-care is crucial
According to Marlene Wendel, a licensed clinical social worker at the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute at Sharp Memorial Hospital, one key element crucial to quality of life after a cancer diagnosis is self-care. However, along with treatment, there continues to be the obligations of family, work and daily activities that can get in the way of focusing on yourself.

“To engage in self-care is to identify and attempt to meet our needs,” Wendel says. “But with cancer, the priorities are shifted and we can soon be consumed by medical appointments, treatments, managing side-effects, healing and recovery. Some wonder, ‘Where does self-care fit in?’”

In her presentation, one of four featured during the webinar, Wendel will share perspectives on what self-care actually is. She will recommend ways to engage in the different aspects of self-care that will be the most meaningful for you to help increase resilience and well-being in life after a cancer diagnosis.

Supporting sexual connection during treatment
Outside of caring for yourself, you might also have to adjust relationships with other people after a cancer diagnosis. This includes intimate relationships in which sexual connection remains important to you and your partner.

“A diagnosis of cancer can be disruptive to intimacy and sexual health in more ways than one,” says Dr. Corinne Yarbrough, an internal medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “Studies suggest that up to 60% of women and 40% of men experience sexual dysfunction due to cancer, either because of the cancer itself or due to cancer treatments.”

According to Dr. Yarbrough, while sexual desire may wane for some because of treatment side effects, the need for intimate connection remains. She will review some of the challenges patients often face with intimacy and sexuality as well as offer some insight and solutions for maintaining a healthy and fulfilling love life.

How good nutrition plays a role
Along with your cancer treatments, it is important to take steps to improve your health at home. Maintaining good nutrition is key.

A quick internet search about what one should eat during cancer treatment will bring up thousands of results. However, Katey Thurmes, a registered dietician at the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute at Sharp Memorial Hospital, advises you can’t always be certain reputable sources are providing the answers you seek online.

“Anyone can share their opinion of nutrition,” she says. “But is it backed by science?”

Thurmes will answer this question and more during the webinar. She will discuss various types of intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet, as well as present results of the first human study on the fasting mimicking diet with patients in active cancer treatment. Additionally, Thurmes will answer common questions about excessive sugar consumption and will look at the risks versus benefits of substituting sugar with artificial sweeteners.

The importance of hope
While there are many physical and emotional challenges of living with cancer, one of the most important ingredients for coping with each challenge is hope. Linda Hutkin-Slade, a medical social worker at the David & Donna Long Cancer Center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, will share her personal experience as a cancer survivor and her professional expertise working directly with cancer patients.

Anyone who gets a cancer diagnosis is suddenly getting used to a "new normal" in life, which can be challenging mentally and emotionally. Having hope can help you cope, adjust and grow through the new cancer experience.

“When you have to face your own mortality, something changes,” Hutkin-Slade says. Hope, she says, can play an important role in helping you navigate your cancer journey and all that comes with it.

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.