Managing Life with Melanoma

Whatever the stage of your melanoma, it is important that you look after your physical health. That means eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, and being as physically active as you can be. It is also important to care for your emotional health by spending time with family and friends and planning activities you enjoy. Friends and family can be a very important resource for people with cancer. Ask them for help if you need a ride to appointments or shopping. Invite them to visit so that you do not become isolated. Most people are happy to help. Some may not know how to respond to your diagnosis. So tell your friends when you need help or would like company.

You may experience symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, depression and anxiety. These disease-related symptoms can be managed. Several treatments are available.

Depression and Anxiety
Anxiety and depression are common among people with cancer. You may be anxious before you have a biopsy and when you are waiting for results. You may become depressed when you learn you have cancer.
You may also feel anxious about recurrence when your treatment is completed. These feelings may be mild. They may also be severe and long-lasting.

Effective help is available. You may benefit from talking to a counsellor or from taking medication. A support group may help you cope with the changes in your life. Contact the Melanoma Network of Canada for information on supportive options or your treatment team at the hospital. Relaxation techniques and meditation are helpful for many people. If you are having problems with depression or anxiety, talk to your treatment team.

Fatigue is very common among people with cancer. Fatigue may be due to the disease or the treatment. Cancer-related fatigue is different from being tired. Fatigue can happen suddenly, and sleep does not improve it. Researchers have found exercise helps with this type of fatigue. Your treatment team can recommend an exercise program to help you. It is also a good idea to be aware of your energy levels and conserve your energy. Plan to do your most important tasks first. That way, if you run out of energy, you will have accomplished what is most important to you. Remember there are many leisure activities that don’t require a lot of energy. You may enjoy visiting with friends, reading, or watching movies. Plan activities you can do that make you feel good. If you are having problems with fatigue, talk to your treatment team.

Pain is the symptom people with cancer fear the most. It is important to know that the right pain medication, taken at the right dose, can be effective in treating pain associated with metastases. In some cases, surgery to remove tumours or radiation or systemic therapy to kill cancer cells may help treat pain.