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Encouraging Patients with Advanced Cancer to Choose Joy

March 8, 2021 | AONN+ Blog
Featuring:
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, JONS; Co-Founder, AONN+; University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions

A cancer diagnosis does not mean it’s time for you to postpone life to undergo treatment. I am constantly telling patients and their loved ones to stop postponing joy. Patients with cancer commonly want to wait or put life on hold, like that one special Alaskan cruise vacation they’ve been meaning to plan, because they associate that trip with finishing their bucket list. They believe if they complete their bucket list, then they are acknowledging that they are going to die from cancer.

As more time passes through their treatment, patients are not going to feel well enough to go on a big trip. It’s important to encourage them to do the things they love while they can and while they’re feeling well enough to do them.

If you have a patient who waited too long and is experiencing too many side effects from cancer or treatments, they may become extremely disappointed when they realize that they are not going to be able to accomplish that item on their bucket list.

Luckily, there are some alternative ways to enjoy travel and still participate in the things that bring them joy. Virtual experiences can be very satisfying, and they allow patients to spend time with their loved ones in a safe atmosphere.

Virtual vacations can be a great substitute, especially if you put in the extra effort to make them special by doing the following:

  1. Find a virtual tour online or on DVD.
  2. Gather family members who would have accompanied the patient on their trip.
  3. Set up a large viewing screen to set the atmosphere.
  4. Get dressed up as if you were on the trip, whether it be black tie for a dinner by the beach or in your hiking boots for a trip to the top of a volcano.
  5. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the vacation!

We invite all nurse and patient navigators, administrators, social workers, oncologists, and other members of the cancer care team to contribute to the AONN+ blog!

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