Diagnosis – cancer is a challenge not only for the patient. These are life-changing conditions for the patients’ family, friends, colleagues, and everyone involved in their lives as well. The great battle for health is largely fought by all of them. What helps patients maintain a cheerful, healthy lifestyle and how do they use monitoring of various physical and mental health parameters on a daily basis? What can other cancer patients, their loved ones, colleagues and others learn from the participants of the PERSIST project, thus gaining the strength to overcome the disease, support and be there for them?
In conversation, project participants from Latvia who have overcome breast cancer admit – it was not easy at first. However, when such a situation occurs, there are only two ways out – to give up or to raise the head and move forward. When the choice is to be made, it has helped them knowing they were not alone. Of course, professional medical staff who provide consultations and health care accompany the cancer patients. That has been the most important thing. Now, they also value their involvement in cooperation with doctors that helps finding ways to help other cancer patients. It gives them satisfaction and awareness that their experience can help improve the living conditions of others who find themselves in a similar situation.
In addition, they mention strong and systematic psychological help as another necessary aspect of support, reminding that health is a priority. It helps in noticing what conditions could have an adverse effect on health. Our project participants refer to psychological self care as a kind of life skill – the ability to follow their feelings and impact them when necessary.
As one of the essential daily habits, health specialists highlight the evening ritual of looking back at the day’s emotions and analyzing them in long term. Not all of the feelings are always positive, and it is not always possible to clearly formulate them – admit our interviewees. However, as doctors emphasize, the emotional background is a very important factor, which, if carefully monitored, helps to take care of health even more purposefully and successfully. The mHealth app developed in the PERSIST project provides exactly such an opportunity, where participants can mark their basic emotions at a convenient moment, as well as, by completing various questionnaires, indicate whether and how various physical sensations have changed. Later on, the doctors receive the overview of the entered information, and it comes handy when planning the future health care for the particular patient. A stable and positive mood significantly improves a person’s self-esteem, and in turn, it helps being confident about the outputs of the investment. These regularities have also been observed by PERSIST participants.
It is well known that physical activities are good for one’s health – it reduces the effects of stress, improves memory, sleep patterns and physical resilience.
However, getting enough movement can be a challenge even for people without a cancer diagnosis. Participants of the PERSIST project can track their physical activity through a smart-band. Although there may be days when it is impossible to fulfil the plan of taking 10000 steps, it is useful to be able to keep track of your physical data, for example, blood pressure, number of steps and monitor their interaction. Though putting such observations into practice is also a kind of a skill, the PERSIST participants consider it an exciting and satisfying activity that definitely justifies their invested attention.
Which of the PERSIST participants’ insights resonate with your observations about your daily self-care?
Author: University of Latvia