Guest post: 8 Ways to Stay Well After Cancer Treatment
Updated: Mar 11
Cancer is a burden on the mind and body and without proper care after treatment, it’s a hardship that can affect your quality of life. Keep reading for tips on how to stay in-tune with self-care post cancer treatment.
1. Give yourself permission to heal. Far too many cancer patients feel pressured to jump back into their pre-cancer schedule soon after treatment. Take some time to address the mental side effects of cancer, including depression, anxiety and the ever-present fear that even the slightest medical symptom could mean cancer recurrence.
2. Maintain a social network. The fight against cancer is an uphill battle, and you’ll need plenty of support. If you don’t already have a tight network, seek out activities that will allow you to forge new bonds. The University of Michigan explains that overall, people with strong family and social connections are mentally and physically healthier than those without.
3. Get in touch with your spiritual side. If you believe in a higher power, your recovery is an excellent time to look for solace and comfort. Meditate, go to church, or speak with a spiritual advisor of your faith.
4. Prioritize your diet. What you eat – or don’t – can play a role in your overall health and well-being. The American Cancer Society explains that foods that contain antioxidants including carotenoids and vitamins E and C should be included in your diet. Antioxidants can prevent cell damage caused by oxidation and may help reduce your chances of cancer recurrence.
5. Exercise. It’s no secret that health care experts recommend at least 150 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity each week. Exercise is especially important for cancer patients as chemotherapy and radiation can take a toll on the body. Start slowly with short walks around the neighborhood and ease yourself into a fitness routine that you enjoy. A recumbent bike or rowing machine may be helpful, as they allow you to exercise without forcing overexertion.
6. Refuse to live in fear. One of the best things you can do for your mental well-being is to remember that life isn’t something to fear. Just because you had cancer doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy everything that life has to offer. Wake up each morning and tell yourself that you own the day. Refuse to live in fear of cancer recurrence as fear won’t stop it from happening but it will stop you from enjoying your life.
7. Get plenty of sleep. The Mayo Clinic reports that sleep disturbances are common among cancer survivors. However, sleep is the only time your body has an opportunity to truly refresh, rejuvenate and recover. Not only will getting adequate amounts of sleep improve your hormone function, it will also boost your cognitive skills and help you feel better while your body is fighting to recover. Set your home’s thermostat to 68 degrees and invest in bedding that’s comfortable to the touch and keeps you warm without overheating. If noise distractions are problem, a simple sound machine or small box fan may help.
8. Stop bad behaviors. While you may never know what caused your cancer to begin with, you can eliminate certain factors that could trigger recurrence. Smoking, drinking and filling your plate with unhealthy foods are all bad habits that you should quash today. The National Cancer Institute reports that alcohol is a known carcinogen and can increase your risk of certain types of cancer involving the head, neck, esophagus, liver, breast and colon.
Your post-cancer life won’t be the same. Take steps to minimize your risk of recurrence and learn how to put yourself – and your physical and mental health – first.
Scott Sanders is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.