Those making the journey through cancer treatment find that life changes in many ways. As a card-holding member of survivorship myself, I understand both the emotional and physical struggles that one experiences. The road to recovery is different for everyone and taking care of your mind and body during this time is critical. Through my own experience, professional education and hands-on training of clients with cancer, I can say without hesitation that the following tips will help you stay healthy during cancer treatment and beyond.
5. Drink Up
Those undergoing cancer treatment are at a higher risk of dehydration due to side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Water removes toxins, regulates body temperature and protects all the organs and tissue, making fluids critical. Mild dehydration can result in headaches, a feeling of weakness, dry mouth, constipation and dry skin whereas more severe dehydration will cause rapid heartbeat, fever and low blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about the best ways for you to stay hydrated and remember these tips:
• When feeling tired, keep drinks close by to minimize having to get up to get a drink.
• Take a water bottle with you when out and take small sips of water all day long.
• Suck on ice chips or a Popsicle.
• If you have mouth sores, apply moisturizer or medicated ointment to ease the pain of drinking and eating. Most importantly, seek medical assistance if dehydration becomes an issue.
4. Learn and Share
Everyone deals with a diagnosis of cancer differently and the unknown can cause fear and worry. The American Cancer Society encourages people to take control and learn all they can about the disease, its treatment and chances for recovery. Knowledge will give you a sense of power over the disease and enable you to cope better with what lies ahead. Anxiety and sadness are normal reactions when faced with cancer. To help maintain your emotional health, find support through a family member, friend, support group, health professional or spiritual advisor. Sharing your situation with others will help you get through difficult treatments, improve your inner strength and give you a positive outlook.
3. Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
Side effects associated with cancer therapy often affect eating habits, causing nutrition problems at a time when your body needs to be in shape to fight and to heal. Loss of appetite, food sensitivity, altered taste and smell, sore mouth, tongue and throat, nausea or other problems may contribute to the change in eating habits. Eating healthy food promotes adequate body weight and strong cells and tissues needed to fight infection and deal with the disease. The National Cancer Institute offers several helpful tips regarding nutrition: consume smaller meals rather than three large meals; eat the most when you are hungriest; drink protein-rich smoothies if your appetite is low; and sample new foods for variety. As always, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and complex carbohydrates.
2. Don’t Avoid Activity
Daily physical activity along with some type of resistance exercise will keep your bones strong, increase your quality of life and decrease cancer-related fatigue. Physical activity also helps in managing stress and will lower your risk for depression. The status of your health will determine the proper exercise program and as your health changes, so will your program. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all regimen because everyone experiences treatment and recovery differently. Get the green light from your physician before starting any exercise program. Upon consent, consider teaming up with a health professional to guide you through the process safely and successfully.
1. Move On
Life after cancer is forever changed in more ways than one. Some experience physical changes, others emotional changes and some both. Cancer can dominate your life for a long time and getting back into your daily routine can be challenging. First, acknowledge that your life may have been rearranged. You may struggle with a shift in priorities, thoughts about your job or view the future differently than before. These are all normal feelings, but recognizing and accepting the changes will help you move ahead. Second, full participation in life is mandatory. Dive back into your daily life, work and community as soon as possible. This may take some time as your recovery progresses, but stay positive. Finally, help others. Your story and experience through cancer can help others experiencing the same journey. Volunteering at a cancer hospital or participating in a cancer support group will not only help others, but also help you to move forward.