The hard fact about cancer is that it’s a disease that takes away a lot of your control. Modern medicine is better than it has ever been at reducing the spread of and in many circumstances curing cancers, but in the end there is only so much that can be done. If you are feeling a loss of control with your cancer diagnosis, it’s important you know that there are ways to take some of it back. You can do quite a bit to practice proper self-care - both physically and emotionally. Here are three essential tips.
It’s well-known that eating right can help you in just about every stage of cancer. Cancer patients have good days and bad days. They may feel sick at times. Weak at other times. Both occasionally. And that’s not even considering post-treatment days. Eating good food is the number one way to make yourself feel stronger, more healthy, and to control your reaction to treatments and medicine. And it is completely up to you how you choose to eat.
A healthy diet for someone with cancer will include a balanced blend of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins. It may be smart to lay off caffeine, red meat, and excess sugars. It’s also vital that you stay hydrated. Water is always best.
If you have to stick to one short tagline as your cancer diet philosophy, choose this one by chef and author Michael Pollan: Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants. For more on healthy eating with cancer, check out this resource.
Life is hard if you’re on your own. Life with cancer is even harder. It’s completely normal to feel like you may be a burden or a downer on your friends and family at times. You may feel better when you’re isolated. But time and time again, studies have proven the benefits of companionship when dealing with an illness.
A study from the National Institutes of Health noted that “individuals without (family support) often have more depressive symptoms, troubled relationships, and physiological cancer-related symptoms that, ultimately, can negatively affect health.”
Companionship doesn’t have to be human to be effective. In fact, canine companions are highly recommended. Rover.com explains that service dogs can provide relaxation, distraction, and emotional support for cancer patients.
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves focusing on the present and using your current thoughts and feeling to help center yourself in the now. It allows you to block out the stresses of the past and the anxieties of the future. Mindfulness is the core mechanism for meditation and a whole host of other mental and physical exercise.
Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga have a long history of being used by cancer patients. There is a bevy of anecdotal evidence out there to suggest a true mind-body connection in the battle with cancer. A happy mind is a happy body - we know this to be true. Science is just beginning to catch up to this, and a recent study suggests that mindfulness practices can actually have a physical effect on cell mutation.
Get started with meditation with this guide.
Your emotional health and spiritual wellness has an effect on how you feel on a day-to-day basis, and new research is hinting that it may also have an effect on the actual cancer as well. When an illness takes much of our control, we have a tendency to feel helpless. But that’s not you. You are strong and filled with self-determination. Through mindfulness, socialization, and healthy eating, you can better care for yourself while you face this battle.
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, coming Summer 2018!