One of the most important aspects of cancer treatment is self-care. As with any chronic condition that requires ongoing medical attention, cancer patients need to take charge of certain aspects of their own lives in order to optimize their success and live the healthiest way possible. Fortunately, there are many tools out there that can help, especially in this age of the ubiquitous mobile device.
Since my own diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer back in November of 2014, I have made it my mission to share my story and hopefully help other patients along the way. I’ve clearly had my own ups and downs, and in the ensuing years, I have managed to learn a thing or two about the process of treatment. Being a vocal advocate on multiple forums, I have been fortunate enough to connect with a wide variety of patients and caregivers, as well as various medical professionals and individuals in related support industries. Sometimes I reach out to them, sometimes they reach out to me.
Last year I was contacted by the folks at Health Storylines about possibly making some of my blog content accessible through a lung cancer-specific version of their mobile app. While that has not yet happened, I did become an avid user of the app itself, finding it to be quite useful for tracking symptoms and setting medication reminders. And I have kept in touch with the company because I truly believe in their mission and the way that they understand the power of narrative.
The purpose of Health Storylines is essentially to help physicians and pharmaceutical companies learn from patient experience while helping patients improve their quality of life through their own data. Because their mission is so near and dear to my heart, I have agreed to act as a “Self Care Ambassador” and offer challenges to my readers that, if they so choose, can easily be monitored through the Health Storylines app. (You could also use old-fashioned pen and paper, but it isn’t nearly as cool. Unless you doodle like my daughter does, in which case paper is much, much cooler than anything else. But for people like me, the app works better…)
Right now, I am in the process of preparing my first challenge to share with you.
There are a number of reasons why I use the Health Storylines app. One of the most important ones for me was that it became incredibly easy to track multiple side-effects of my medications. It has a simple rating system and incorporates a clean graphical interface that allows me to see how my treatment cycles and side-effects coincide, thus making it easier to plan ahead with some certainty. I learned a lot by having something to look back on, but I have hardly touched most of the tools that the app incorporates. One of those is the “Self-Care Reflections” tool, which I am going to begin using this week.
This tool outlines five areas of therapeutic self-care:
- People Support
My first challenge is going to fall into that first category of self-care. It’s an easy one (I hope), but one that I desperately need right now.
The other cool thing about the app is that it is set up to either be used privately or socially. With the “Self-Care Reflections” tool, for example, you can set it to share with family or friends who also use the app, or just keep the journal for yourself. If you choose to download the app, the sign-up process will guide you through a choice of health conditions and will then give you a selection of appropriate tools — multiple conditions can be supported at once, too. I don’t want to limit these challenges to just people with lung cancer — it is my hope that anyone will be able to benefit from this exercise, regardless of health issues (or lack thereof). So please, share this with your friends and family, too. After all, taking care of ourselves is more fun together!
And check back on Monday, April 16th, when I post my first challenge!