4 tips for maintaining your health and sanity during cancer treatment

The title may seem like a dichotomy when undergoing cancer treatment but in reality, for many people, if it wasn’t for the cancer diagnosis, you’d be relatively healthy.

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Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy.  The dark days of not knowing what the future may hold for you or your family, can be tough to deal with.  But there are certain things one can do to turn your mindset from doom and gloom to fostering hope and a bright future ahead. 

How can this be done?  A wise oncologist who has treated thousands of cancer patients over the course of his career once said his best advice on beating back cancer and getting on with your life is to practice four things - Keep working at your job if possible, eat healthy, exercise and have a sense of humor.  Let’s explore each one of these points:

·      Keep working at your job if possible

Whether gainfully employed or not, having a sense of direction is vital.  Keeping oneself busy through a job, volunteer work, or maintaining a household, provides a sense of normalcy, a sense of purpose and can keep your mind from focusing too much on your diagnosis.  It can be a good outlet for being around people and remembering we all have our own problems we are dealing with. 

Not all cancer patients are able to work during treatment but on days you are feeling well enough, do so.  Even if you can volunteer at your church, synagogue, school, or at an organization you care about, this gets you out mingling with others keeping you socially active.

·      Eat healthy

A healthy diet can do wonders for cancer patients.  Eating the right kinds of food during and after cancer treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger.  You will be more likely to ensure a healthy body weight during cancer treatment while providing essential nutrients necessary to help promote the success of your medical treatment for your cancer. 

One dietary emphasis should be on consuming enough protein to help repair tissue and maintain a healthy immune system.  Obtaining sufficient protein should come from healthy sources such as fish, beans and lentils, eggs, skinless chicken breast, lean beef, nuts, and yogurt.  Protein amounts should be based on a person’s body weight and condition. 

Consuming more plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants support health by blocking damage from harmful free radicals.  These same foods can nourish the body helping it to heal from various cancer treatments.

Staying hydrated is important as many cancer patients can get malnourished and dehydrated if they are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.  Constipation can be another issue for some which additional fluids can help with.  Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day should meet most individuals fluid needs.  However, some conditions may call for a fluid restriction in which the patient should heed the advice of their healthcare provider.

·      Exercise

The days of oncologists telling a cancer patient to take it easy and rest during cancer treatment are long gone.  Now, because of significant research, someone with cancer will most likely be told to get out and move. 

Take advantage of the days you are feeling well enough to exercise.

Many studies have shown that regular physical activity is linked to increased life expectancy after a diagnosis of cancer often by decreasing the risk of cancer recurrence. It’s been well-documented that physical activity is good for a person’s well-being and their long-term health.  Physical activity has shown positive effects on body composition, physical fitness, quality of life, anxiety, and self-esteem.  Taking long walks, swimming, bicycling or any kind of movement gets your circulation going, keeps your cardiovascular function healthy, keeps the immune system healthy and gives a person a sense of taking control of their medical situation.

·      Have a sense of humor

There is a growing body of research supporting the theory that laughter may have therapeutic value.  The use of humor in medicine is not necessarily new but it is getting more recognition on its impact on health and healing.

It may seem strange to find humor when facing a serious issue such as cancer.  Yet, the ability to laugh can be more helpful than imagined. 

Laughter can be a diversion helping you feel better about yourself and the world around you.  In addition it can provide physical benefits that include boosting the immune system, enhancing oxygen intake, stimulates the heart and lungs, relaxes muscles, triggers the release of endorphins, relieves pain, lowers blood pressure and improves mental function. 

It can also improve a cancer patients overall attitude, reduces stress, promotes relaxation, improves sleep and enhances the quality of life.