1. After being diagnosed with any cancer, always get a second opinion to verify and get informed about what you have. Great resources that I found helpful and reliable are MSKCC.org, Americancancersociety.org, mayoclinic.org, and MDAnderson.org.
2. If you are able, put on as much weight as possible before surgery.
3. Maintain great oral health care. This can be tricky particularly after surgery, though it is crucial to limit infection and dental issues down the road. You need to do what is best for you. I floss my teeth after every meal and brush my teeth gently with an electric toothbrush. I also now have a fluoride toothpaste that I use two times a day.
4. If you are able, create a support group for yourself with family and friends. Having people around that bring you a sense of comfort, hope and humor are key.
5. Holistic Therapy such as acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, oils, Rieke and meditation are wonderful ways to rid pain, dry mouth, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
6. While waiting in doctor’s offices and especially during post-operative treatments bring a bag of hope: a blanket, book, magazines, journal to draw, write or paint with watercolors during treatment. Bring music and/or an iPad to watch movies and shows to make the process a bit more pleasant.
7. HNC Support Groups. Unlike other cancers, there are an array of topics and issues that many other cancer patients do not endure and experience on a daily basis. You cannot compare any cancer, but it can be helpful to know someone else shares similar experiences.
8. Rest. My team of doctors told me the best way to heal is to rest and sleep. Your body is running a marathon daily to heal, fight and endure post-operative treatments.
9. Be easy on yourself. The first time you view yourself in a mirror after surgery it might be difficult. Focus on the fact that you are alive. Try to shift your focus to achieving a full recovery.
10. Don’t ever lose hope. You are not alone and always remember that your mind controls your body. Remain as positive and optimistic as possible every hour of every day.