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A terminal diagnosis and palliative care - Getting support for you

***Please note these are new information pages. These are draft pages and currently being reviewed***

At the moment you may need different types of support both physical and emotional. Make sure you ask for help as and when you need it. You may not need anything immediately but this section can direct you in case you need support in the future.

You can be referred to any of the following services via the hospital where you received your treatment or your GP: pain clinics, counselling, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social services, dieticians, chaplaincy, complementary therapy and community link team. You can also use local support such as your District Nurse and where applicable a Community Nurse or local Hospice Nurse. If you have a good relationship with your Gynae-CNS or your GP please do talk to them about your options so that you can get more support as and when you need it.

You might want to consider a referral to your local hospice or community palliative care team. Don’t be alarmed by this, palliative care is about a holistic approach to care, for both mind and body. Whilst it is true that some people choose to spend their last days in a hospice, active and well people also benefit from therapeutic services that are given to out-patients such as massage or counselling. At a hospice you can access pain management teams who are experts in helping you to live life to the full.

The hospice can also provide you with a team of highly specialised professionals including specialist nurses and doctors who will support you and answer your questions about treatment. Hospice nurses are very experienced with supporting women and their families and can help with issues, such as managing your relationships, which can understandably be strained at this time.
Some hospices offer the opportunity for you to visit for the day and they may also have a ‘Hospice at Home’ service that provides support in your home.

Hospices can also help you find other services such as financial or social support.

Physical support
You may have some physical symptoms that are caused by your cancer. These can usually be managed with the help of your doctor or nurse. It is difficult to give you a full list of symptoms that you may experience because everyone is individual and the symptoms that one person reports may be different for someone else. Generally more pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, or sickness should be monitored. Listen to your body and contact a health care professional if your condition changes or you are worried or concerned. Your health team will want to know how the symptoms you’re experiencing affect your life and if anything makes them better or worse. There are options to help you have the best quality of life – the important thing is to report any symptoms that are causing you discomfort or preventing you from doing things.

Complementary therapies to improve your sense of wellbeing
Your local cancer support centre or hospice will have a range of holistic therapies available, free of charge to people undergoing treatment for cancer. Complementary therapies can be used alongside other medical treatment you may be receiving. These treatments can help you to relax, ease tense muscles and help you to return to a sense of equilibrium at this difficult time. They can also help to manage some of the physical symptoms. There are a range of therapies available such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, reiki, and reflexology. They will be delivered by a qualified therapist.

Macmillan has some fantastic resources on different complementary therapies, click here to see their information.

Spiritual support
If you have a spiritual belief you might find that this becomes more important to you. You may be thinking about what happens to you after you die. Many people find the support of their religious community comforting when they face a terminal diagnosis. You can contact a local minister or religious leader for spiritual support. It does not matter if you have not previously had any involvement with your local place of worship, they will usually be happy to help and can provide spiritual guidance and support.

Some women who face a terminal diagnosis find they may experience a loss of faith, if you are experiencing this do seek some support to discuss how you are feeling.

Managing your lifestyle
Despite your cancer being advanced it does not mean that your health will deteriorate immediately. Women with a terminal cancer diagnosis can live life as normally as possible depending on their individual situation such as the type of treatment you require to manage your cancer and any symptoms you may be experiencing.

There may be some adjustments to be made to your lifestyle. For example, you might find you get tired more easily. If this happens you could try to manage this by arranging activities in the morning and taking a rest in the afternoon or planning more restful activities. Over time it is likely that you will have increasing health issues to manage, and you may need more treatment. Let your body guide you as to what you can and cannot do. Remember to tell your health team about any new symptoms so that they can help you manage things. Your health team may refer you to physiotherapy and/ or occupational therapy services, these specialists can recommend exercises, help with mobility aids and manage breathlessness and suggest adaptations within your home that might help you and your family.

Intimacy with a partner may be a very important thing for you right now. It’s just as natural now, as its always been to have these feelings. The chemicals your body releases when you are intimate or receive affection from another person make you feel good but also feel close to your partner. Some of the treatment you have had may make this challenging. Please talk to your Nurse Specialist if you need support or advice with this.

Those facing a terminal diagnosis and their loved ones can feel an enormous sense of isolation and can feel distanced from friends, family and colleagues which is why it is so important to get the support that you need at this time. Take time out to care for yourself and ask for help when you need it.

If you want to talk to other women who may be facing a terminal diagnosis you can find support on our website and there are links to other organisations here.

Date last updated: 
30 Oct 2013