Cancer can affect 4 dimensions (4D), or areas, of one’s life. The 4 dimensions are:
- Treatment management: This is urgent and the one you have most control over, which is why I list it first. It includes managing appointments, tests, and treatments. It also includes medical opinions and decisions regarding medical providers (facilities, physicians, etc.) and treatments. Handling health insurance and medical bills (unfortunately) often falls here and also overlaps with dimension 4 below.
- Physical: Pain and suffering related to cancer-related symptoms and deficits, as well as treatment-related symptoms and deficits. It includes fatigue, which could be severe and underestimated.
- Emotional, mental, and spiritual: A cancer diagnosis usually causes shock, grief, anxiety, and stress. It often leads to increased contemplation of life, death, and spirituality.
- Lifestyle: The first three dimensions almost always have lifestyle consequences. These include travel, relocation, changes in living arrangements, loss or change of employment and income, financial strain (including costly bills and health insurance ‘issues’), impact on relationships and loved ones, and any matters around one’s support system. Other consequences relate to the ability to engage in normal activities and your normal “way of life.”
Organizing cancer’s effects into these dimensions helps in realizing they are normal. The severity to which these dimensions are true for an individual varies based on countless variables and evolves over time. However, they are virtually inevitable, albeit to varying degrees on a spectrum. That’s why recognizing them and dealing with them is part of what I think is necessary to be an A+ patient and survivor—controlling what you can to live as long as possible with the best possible quality of life. Finally and importantly, the first cancer effects that usually come to mind are the negative ones. Those are easy to find. Look (hard) for the positive ones. You deserve them. Don’t waste them by letting them float by unrecognized and unappreciated.