Support for Localized Kidney Cancer
Getting diagnosed with cancer has a great impact on your life and the lives of your loved ones. It can cause feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, or even depression. Undergoing treatment for cancer is intense and will affect your work and social life. To find support, approach your doctor or nurse. They will be able to give you contact information about patient organizations or others who can help you with psychological support or practical matters such as financial advice.
Preparing for a consultation
Preparing for a consultation can be very useful. It will help you and your doctor better address your questions and concerns. Here are some things you can try:
- Write down the questions you would like to ask the doctor. This will help you remember things that you want to ask. Writing down questions can also help you organize your thoughts
- If you can, take someone with you to the visit. It is good to have someone to discuss what the doctor said and you probably remember different things
- Ask for information about your specific type of cancer
- If the doctor uses words you do not understand, ask for an explanation
- Tell your doctor what medicine you take and if you take any alternative medicine. Some of these medicines can affect the treatment
After the consultation you can:
- Search the Internet or go to the library for more information about your type of cancer. Be aware that not all the information you see online is of good quality. Your doctor or health care team can point you to reliable websites
- Contact a patient organization, they can offer support and information
- Discuss with your health care team the possible financial consequences of your treatment. They might be able to direct you to people or places where you can get advice about your economic situation or even financial help
- If you want, you should ask for a second opinion from another specialist
Support after surgery
In the first days or weeks after surgery you may need help with everyday activities. If you can, ask family, friends, or neighbours to help you with things like buying and carrying home food, cooking, cleaning, washing, and gardening. You can also ask your health care team for information about professional home care.
After surgery, it is common that you experience fatigue. This means you feel more tired than usual, you are out of energy, have trouble concentrating, and it doesn’t get better after you sleep. Most people experience fatigue for six months up to a year after the surgery. To deal with fatigue, you can:
- Write down things that give you energy and give them priority during the day or week
- Get help with household tasks like washing, cleaning, or gardening
- Take short naps several times during the day
- Try to be as active as you can. A short walk every day is better than a long walk once a week
- When planning social activities like a trip or a visit, keep in mind you may need time to rest during the day. Discuss this with your family, friends or caregiver so that you can plan ahead. It is important to tell them when you are feeling tired
After surgery you will meet with your doctor. In this visit, both the results of the surgery and the follow-up schedule will be discussed. Ask for a care plan so you can see how often you will need to see your doctor, and what kind of tests could be needed before each visit. This depends on the characteristics of the tumour.
Write down questions you may have before the visit. Examples of questions you can ask are:
- Is the cancer gone?
- Do I need additional treatment? If so, what options are relevant for me?
- What kind of tests do I need before the follow-up visits?
- How will the treatment and the kidney cancer affect my quality of life?
It is important that you continue to attend these visits. During these, the doctor monitors your kidney and can detect possible tumour recurrence on time. It is also important to tell your doctor if you notice any new symptoms. Do not hesitate to contact your health care team and tell them about new symptoms before the visit.
It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle during and after treatment. Try to get physical exercise regularly. Find an activity that you enjoy doing. If you have doubts about what you can do, ask your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist.
Try to eat a balanced diet with a mix of vegetables, fruit and dairy. Also include starchy food like bread and potatoes, rice or pasta, and protein-rich food like meat, fish, eggs, or legumes. Try to eat less sugar, salt, and fatty food. If you have any questions, ask your doctor to refer you to a dietician.
Try to stop smoking. It may help you recover faster after surgery.
After the surgery you may worry about your prognosis, the impact of cancer on your financial situation, or other issues.
It is common to worry about the cancer coming back. Most people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or their loved ones, will probably have these worries and thoughts. If you feel worried, contact your doctor and find out the risk of cancer recurrence. You can also ask the doctor about psychological support if you feel you need to have someone to talk to. A patient organization can also offer support.
Surgery and cancer treatment can affect your sexuality. It is important that you talk to your partner about your feelings. There are many ways in which you can be intimate. If you do not want to be sexually active, be near each other, touch each other, give and take hugs, and just sit or lay down close to each other.
During treatment you will be away from your work. Talk to your boss about the best way for you to get back to work. Perhaps you could work part time, or in a different function.
Discuss the possible financial consequences of your treatment with your health care team. They might be able to direct you to people or places where you can get advice about your economic situation or even financial help.
If you have difficulties getting back to normal life or getting back to work, talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help you find the support and treatment you need.
A cancer diagnosis can make you look at life in a different way and you may realise you now have different priorities. This can affect your work or relationships and can make you feel disoriented and uncertain. Talk to family and friends and take all the time you need for this process. If you don’t feel comfortable addressing these issues with those close to you, you can ask your health care team for a referral to a psychologist. The psychologist can give you the tools to deal with these feelings and help you to realise the changes you want or need.
Support for family and friends
A cancer diagnosis not only affects the patient, but also the people around them. As a loved one, you can offer support in many different ways. Sometimes you can help with practical things like laundry, gardening, or grocery shopping.
It may also be helpful to go to the doctor together. You could offer to drive to the visit or help formulate questions to ask during consultation. Being there for the consult can also be good. You may remember different things or focus on other details, which you can later discuss together. You could also ask the doctor how the treatment may impact your lives in terms of caregiving and psychological effects.
The diagnosis and treatment can be very emotional for everybody involved. Cancer treatment is intense and your life may change suddenly. Questions about prognosis, effects of the treatment, and even the possibility of dying may come up. As a friend or loved one you can be there and listen. You don’t need to have the answers.
If you feel you need somebody to talk to, approach your family doctor or the medical team to get support. Patient organizations also offer support for family members or friends of people who have been diagnosed with cancer.
These organizations can also help with more practical matters such as financial support.
Testimonial Trevor P. (Aberdeen, Scotland)
Just under 5 years ago at the age of 56 and in good health, I went to my doctor about a minor matter. I was sent for an ultrasound of my abdomen and by chance they saw something not so good in my right kidney. It turned out that I had a tumour of 5.6 centimetres in diameter. I was then scheduled to have a radical nephrectomy less than a month later.
Because I read all information I could about my condition, I felt very positive throughout my waiting period before surgery and afterwards. I was very pleased when the surgeon confirmed that the cancer was contained within the kidney and completely removed during surgery, so I required no further treatment.
Recovery was gradual at first, it was probably three months before I regained some strength and maybe a year before I was fully fit. From about 4 months I began to lead a normal life again.