'Collective wisdom' helps navigate cancer journey

Guide to help you through medical and mental maze of cancer

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The Cancer Companion shares stories of cancer patients to help others find their way.

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Navigating the treatment options and steering through the emotional turbulence of a diagnosis can be a harrowing journey.

More than one million Australians are currently living with, or have previously lived with, cancer. It's a journey that has been travelled by many; but how do you find a path through the medical and mental maze?

Australian psychologist Dr Toni Lindsay, who has more than a decade of experience working with cancer patients and their families, helps pave the way with a new book, The Cancer Companion.

It's an important resource not only for those navigating the cancer journey themselves, but also for friends and family who want to offer support but are not sure what to expect or how to help, especially when it comes to dealing with the complex emotions that accompany a diagnosis.

Dr Lindsay covers diagnosis and treatment, ending treatment, managing advanced disease, and strategies to manage the specific psychological components which may occur (including living with uncertainty, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and managing relationships).

The book, she says, isn't meant to fix things like fear, terror or anger; or hoping it will all just go away; or your mind drawing a blank.

"The thoughts in this book aren't from my experience," she writes. "They are the collective wisdom and worries of thousands of people with cancer and their families who have shared some of their emotional experiences with me."

Dr Lindsay says while there are no shortcuts or things that will make the cancer journey easy, she hopes the things discussed in the book "may just make the day to day of it a little bit easier to bear".

Everyone, she says, will find their own story.

"The most important part is allowing yourself to feel the things that come to you, see them for what they are, and to remember that there is no perfect way of doing this - you will just to the best that you can."

Dr Lindsay works in the oncology and haematology departments at the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse in Sydney.

The Cancer Companion: How to navigate your way from diagnosis to treatment and beyond, by Dr Toni Lindsay (Exisle Publishing) RRP $32.99

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