Guest blogger Scott Sanders is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. He is also the author of the book Put Yourself First: A Guide to Self-care and Spiritual Wellness During and After Cancer Treatment.
When you’re first diagnosed with cancer, it’s easy to only consider the physical effects of the disease and its related treatment. However, the physical effects may be the easiest to overcome. It’s estimated that approximately one in three cancer patients suffer from far more devastating mental health disorders.
The psychological side effects of cancer can take a toll on you. You may feel as though you’re expected to return to normal immediately after a successful round of chemotherapy or radiation. Pressures to jump back into everyday life can leave you feeling emotionally drained with little energy to focus on physical healing. If you want to truly come to terms with your diagnosis and treatment and regain control of your physical and mental well-being, you have to focus on actions that promote whole health.
Staying connected with friends and family can help you heal. The National Comprehensive Cancer Center Network hospital recommends eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables at every meal and swapping out vegetable oils with canola or olive oil, which contain high amounts of healthy fats. It’s believed that maintaining a healthy weight, either through weight loss or weight gain after treatment, can help you live a better quality of life.
If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is to quit. This is especially true if you’re recovering from throat, lung, or mouth cancer, which may be more greatly impacted by direct contact with cigarette smoke. SmokeFree.gov explains that you can manage cravings by keeping yourself busy and going into a smoke-free zone when you want a cigarette. Drink plenty of water and chew gum or hard, sugar-free candies to keep your mouth occupied when cravings hit their hardest. You can also try nicotine replacement therapy, which can help you get over the hump. Avoid electronic cigarettes, as they often contain just as many – sometimes more – harmful chemicals than cigarettes.
As a cancer survivor, you are at a higher risk of second malignancies, including osteoporosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, you must take care of yourself. In addition to eating a proper diet and dropping bad habits, you’ll also feel better and reduce your risk of other issues by maintaining a regular exercise routine. Walk, jog, or join an aquatics class. Try to fit in at least 120 minutes of physical activity into your weekly schedule.
Taking care of your physical health can ease the emotional pains of cancer and cancer treatment. However, these types of scars run deep and can impact your spiritual well-being as well. Whether it’s a connection with nature or a higher power, your spirituality may make it easier to cope with your illness. The Annals of Oncology explains that you should put your spirituality at the forefront of your treatment plan and that not addressing these needs can result in negative outcomes and failure to find an effective coping mechanism. You can connect, reconnect, or strengthen your current bonds to your spirituality by talking with a clergy member of your faith or doing things that get you closer to your version of enlightened. Yoga and meditation may help.
Another important part of your cancer self-care strategy is connecting with other survivors. The American Cancer Society reports that there are numerous support programs across the country. This includes organizations that can help you perfect your post-treatment beauty routine to simply providing information and emotional support.
Cancer is a terrible disease, but it does not have to control your life. Through self-care and spiritual awareness/wellness, you can take the reins and determine the emotional path your cancer takes you.