By Guest Writer: Scott Sanders
Being hit with a cancer diagnosis is certainly something no one ever wants to experience. But the reality is that more than 1.5 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. And while having cancer means getting close to your doctor and suffering through potentially painful treatments, there are ways to enhance your quality of life.
Self-care is the answer
The day before your cancer diagnosis was probably filled with activity, some necessary, some not. What it likely lacked, however, was time for self-care. But self-care is exactly what you need as you prepare for and battle one of the greatest challenges of your life. Living Better With asserts that managing stress should be one of your top priorities. Doing things such as finding quiet time to decompress, exercising, and eating nourishing foods can give you the energy and strength to move forward. Self-care looks different for different people. How you choose to tend to your spiritual, emotional, and physical needs is unique to you, but there are a few activities proven to help. These include:
- Spend time with a therapy dog. There is little doubt that chemotherapy and radiation can deteriorate your physical health. And although a dog cannot change that, studies show that chemo patients who spend time with a therapy animal prior to treatment have enhanced emotional and social well-being. Dogs don’t cure disease, but they can help you relax and offer a much-needed distraction from your pain and frustration.
- Read as a form of self-care. When you have cancer, the benefits of reading are twofold. First, arming yourself with information about your disease is one of the best ways to help you feel more in control, which can boost your mental health. Second, reading in itself offers numerous health benefits and has been shown to reduce stress by up to 68 percent.
- Enhance your eating. For many people, a cancer diagnosis sends them into full-on business mode with diet being a major focus. But an appetite can be difficult to muster in the midst of chemotherapy treatments. Rather than taking a strict approach, opt for clean eating as well as comfort foods to give you the sustenance you need. If you’re at a loss, look to a nutritionist for guidance. Many seniors have nutrition therapy provided through their healthcare plans, but anyone coping with cancer should take the time to see what resources are available through their insurance.
- Focus on spirituality. Even if you don’t follow a traditional religion, your personal spirituality is a powerful tool that can enhance your wellbeing. Oxford Academic reports, “Spiritual practices such as meditation have also demonstrated some health benefits. Spirituality is also part of patients’ experience with illness, such as cancer.” No matter how you choose to focus on your spiritual wellness, doing so can help you cope with your diagnosis.
- Check things off your bucket list. The idea of a bucket list begins to sound ominous when you’re faced with a potentially life-threatening disease. However, achieving a goal or trying something new — whether it’s traveling or simply conquering your fear of roller coasters — is a feat you can hold onto in your darkest hour.
- Surround yourself with those you love. It’s normal to feel alone and helpless when facing cancer. But, chances are, you are not alone or helpless. com explains that having a support system is a way to help you share your burden and envelop yourself in encouragement. Keep in mind that your entire family will suffer as well and having this added support can help keep everyone stable in an unstable time.
- Manage pain. Cancer Network throws out some pretty grim statistics when it comes to cancer patients and pain. The organization notes that up to 60 percent of those diagnosed will experience significant pain regardless of disease stage. Chronic pain, such as that experienced with cancer, can take a toll on your mental health. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about ways to manage your discomfort. This may be through pharmaceuticals or by more natural means, such as taking a warm bath or getting a massage.
It’s understandable that your main concern will be treatment. However, you must also make efforts to keep yourself spiritually and mentally healthy while you hurt and then heal physically. Cancer is not always a death sentence, so don’t treat your body like it’s on its last legs.