woman in kitchen
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Practical Tips for TLC

When you have stage III or stage IV breast cancer, there’s more to taking care of yourself than your treatments and doctor visits. Little things that you can do at home can help you feel your best. Try these ways to make your everyday life more comfortable and simpler.

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woman resting in bed
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Chill Out Your Bedroom

Some women get hot flashes as a side effect of breast cancer treatments that lower their estrogen levels. If this happens to you, you’ll want to have a fan in your bedroom and layers on your bed, so you can remove them as needed. You might also want to keep a towel near your bed, if you sweat a lot.

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woman pouring mouthwash
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Switch Up Your Mouthwash

Does it have alcohol in it? If so, you might want to switch to an alcohol-free version. Chemo and radiation can sometimes cause mouth sores, and the alcohol would irritate those spots.  Hard candy (not too tart) and ice chips made from plain water or frozen juice are good to have on hand to soothe such sores.

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chemo patient
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Prepare Chemo Comforts

If you go to a hospital or clinic for chemo, you’ll be there for at least a couple of hours each time. It will probably be cold there, so bring a blanket you love, socks, snacks, lip balm (in case the chemo dries out your lips), and water. Load up on books and music to help you pass the time. 

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woman reading book
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Claim Your Favorite Spot

When you need to take a break, make a beeline for a chair where you can bask in the sun, or to a central room of your house so you feel close to your family. Look for a strategic place that’s close to a bathroom and doesn’t have a lot of stairs, if moving around isn’t so easy. To feel settled, keep favorite photos nearby and have a chair ready for people who visit.

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vegetable drawer
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Stock Your Fridge

Your diet can help you keep up your strength and curb any side effects from treatment. Choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. Keep items like nuts, raisins, and string cheese handy for snacking. When you feel well enough, cook extra portions of healthy meals and freeze them. These will be easy to defrost and eat on days when you don’t have time or energy to cook.

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woman listening to music
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Refresh Your Tunes

Music can help you feel calm or boost your energy. You can listen to an album you like, play an instrument you have at home, sing along to the radio, or watch an online concert. Even talking with friends about your favorite song lyrics and what they mean to you may help you feel better.

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family hugging
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Find Your People

Want a place where you can talk about your feelings, share your concerns, and get advice from others who are going through the same experience as you? You might want to find a support group. Some meet in medical centers or churches.  Others meet online, so you can join in from the comfort of your own home.

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woman texting
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Set Reminders to Say Yes

Friends and family will probably ask, “Can I help?” Not used to letting them? It’s time to change that. Put a reminder in your smartphone, or leave yourself notes where you’ll see them, that say, “Yes, thank you.” Accepting help could make life easier and give you more time. Think of tasks or errands that friends and neighbors could do: make a meal, mow the lawn, watch your kids while you’re at the doctor, or listen to how you’re doing.

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woman stretching outside
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Move When You Can

Your energy probably is down from what you’re used to. But being active as much as you can actually gives you more energy. Plus, it burns off stress and feels good! Check with your doctor about the types of activities that are OK for you to do. You might also want to find a certified personal trainer who works with people who have breast cancer.

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woman watching tv
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Binge-Watch for Laughs

Give yourself an evening on your couch to watch a favorite comedy, pick up a funny book, or play board games. Laughter coaxes your body to relax, helps you deal better with stress, and may also ease pain, soothe stomachaches, and loosen tight muscles.

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woman blowing dandelion
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Prize Your Rest

Sleep gives your body a chance to heal and recharge. If it’s hard to fall or stay asleep, try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Avoid heavy meals late at night, and turn off all screens 30 minutes before bed. Try to spend some time in natural light, whether you go outside during the day or sit in a sunny room. It primes your body clock to rest later on. If sleep stays a problem, let your doctor know.

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girl doing laundry
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Hand Off Some Chores

Could you order your groceries online and have them sent to your home? Or send out your laundry? Might you be able to let some things go? Some cancer groups also deliver home-cooked meals or help with housecleaning for free.

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woman applying lipgloss
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At-Home TLC

Taking care with how you look can boost your mood. It’s a small treat for yourself, not a standard you have to live up to. Some women choose to wear a wig, turban, scarf, or hat. Or you might decide to embrace being temporarily bald. If you lose your eyebrows and eyelashes, and like to wear makeup, eye shadow and liner can enhance your features. You can also use false eyelashes. If you usually go to a nail salon, try an at-home mani-pedi.

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talk therapy
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Open Up

You’ve probably heard you should “be positive” as you deal with cancer. But no one expects you to be cheerful all the time. It’s healthy to feel all your emotions, including  anger or fear -- and to have a safe place to talk about them with family, friends, your support group, and possibly a counselor. Doing so may help you let go of these feelings. If you get depressed or anxious, tell your doctor or counselor so you can get relief.

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woman doing yoga
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Take a Break

With doctor visits, treatments, and tests, you have a lot going on. How do you relax when you get home? You could meditate, pray, do yoga, enjoy a favorite hobby, or write in a journal. You might also want to take some time for yourself: Turn off your cellphone and all other screens in your house for even a few minutes each day for some peace and quiet.

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man hugging woman
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Connect With Your Mate

Sex may be the last thing on your mind right now -- and that’s OK. Talk with your partner about what feels good to you, as well as when you feel too tired or want time to yourself. Remember that there are plenty of ways to be intimate without having sex. Kissing, touching each other, and massage can all help you and your partner stay close.

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women talking at lunch
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Take Stock of Your Friendships

Friends will respond to your cancer in different ways. Some will offer strength, fun, and support. Spend as much time as you can with them. Others may feel scared or unsure of what to do, and vanish when you need them most.  If their absence hurts your feelings, tell them and talk about what would feel better.

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woman using filing cabinet
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Start Some Files

Every cancer diagnosis comes with a pile of paperwork. This includes test results, treatment details, medical bills, and a list of medicines you’re taking. It’s a good idea to keep all these papers in one place. You may need them in the future. Put them into your filing cabinet or a binder, scan them into your computer, or put these papers into a box. Your partner or caregiver should know where these records are, too.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/01/2018 Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on December 01, 2018

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SOURCES:

University of California San Francisco Medical Center: “Breast Cancer Self-care and Recovery: Lifestyle Changes.”

OncoLink/Penn Medicine: “Women’s Guide to Sexuality During & After Cancer Treatment.”

Living Beyond Breast Cancer: “Methods of Self-Care to Deal With Stress and Anxiety,” “Metastatic Breast Cancer: Guide for the Newly Diagnosed.”

Cancer Treatment Centers of America: “Laughter therapy,” “Addressing sleep problems in cancer patients,” “Nine ways to relax.”

National Cancer Institute: “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: Laughter Therapy.”

Sleep.org/National Sleep Foundation: “Scary Ways Technology Affects Your Sleep.”

Northwestern University: “Natural Light in the Office Boosts Health.”

Cancer Today magazine/American Association for Cancer Research: “Your Cancer Guide: Asking for Help,” “Your Cancer Guide: Friendships Lost and Found.”

Mayo Clinic: “Breast Cancer: Self Management: Coping and Support.”

Breastcancer.org: “Exercise During and After Treatment,” “Scarves, Turbans, Hats and Makeup,” “Music Therapy,” “Healthy Eating During Treatment,” “Planning Meals While You’re Having Treatment,” “Designing a Healthy Eating Plan.”

Cancer Prevention & Treatment Fund: “The benefits of exercise after getting diagnosed with cancer.”

Susan J. Komen Breast Cancer: “Support for People with Metastatic Breast Cancer,” “Music Therapy.”

CancerCare.org: News release.

Ford Warriors in Pink: “2016 Ford Warriors in Pink Survey Highlights,” “A good day starts with a clean house.”

Cancer Research UK: “Everyday life during chemotherapy.”

Macmillan Cancer Support: “Getting prepared when caring for someone with advanced cancer.”

NHS Choices: “Personal hygiene for cared-for people.”

American Cancer Society: “Caring for Your Appearance During Cancer Treatment,” “Managing Cancer as a Chronic Illness.”

Cancer Support Community: “Caregivers.”

Cancer.net/American Society of Clinical Oncology: “Clearing the Clutter: Tips for Organizing Medical Information.”

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on December 01, 2018

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

WebMD Voices

Lauren H., 39
Oakley, CA
Many with stage IV hate the comment, ‘Well, you don't look sick at all!' This both implies that I should look weak and sad all the time. And since I don't, I'm throwing off their expectations of what someone with cancer should look like.
Jeanette R., 47
Advance, NC
This cancer has been an odd gift, opening my eyes to the beauty in the little everyday things in life. Slow down, pause, savor it. Repeat. … The more I pray for it and practice, the easier it gets.
Lara M., 42
Louisville, KY
The corner … I lived in fear of looking around it for nearly 5 years. Over time, I've learned how to live more fully present instead of worrying about the perceived future.
Ericia L., 42
Massillon, OH
It's about facing one's mortality while trying to keep the courage to continue on for your family. It's like walking through mud with high heels on. You slip and fall and then you get up and try again, over, and over, and over. Sometimes you stay down for a while, sometimes someone throws you a rope to help, but the mud is always there.
Sheila M.
Swansea, IL
People often tell me, "Well, you should do this or you should do that." There's no right or wrong answer on how we deal with this disease. I've learned to deal with it on my own terms and in my own way. I continue to let my faith guide me, and I continue to lean on my family and friends for support.
Mary G.
Oregon, WI
Bring a support person to your first appointment to take notes and listen. Learn all you can on reputable websites. Breathe. Gather your inner circle of supportive friends and lean on them. It’s OK to be mad as hell. There will be good and bad days. On bad days, think of the good ones just around the corner.
Sheila M.
Swansea, IL
For a very long time, I didn’t accept it. When I finally did, I stopped worrying about things that were beyond my control and I started enjoying life. Having MBC has given me a new purpose through my advocacy work with Metavivor’s Serenity Project. I want women to stand on my shoulders of hope and love.
Mary R.
Livonia, MI
I always feel better when I’m rested. I sleep 10-12 hours many days. Smiling and having a good sense of humor makes difficult situations better. I don’t worry about small things anymore. Meditation, music, and massages help. I also cope by coloring and sewing, when I have the energy.
Lisa B.
Coral Springs, FL
In addition to treatment, I do daily meditation, which calms my body as well as my mind. I find it to be very peaceful. I also find walking and yoga to be a form of relaxation -- and it’s healthy. I call it ‘doing my homework.’ The drugs are doing their job, and it’s my responsibility to take care of me.
Mary R.
Livonia, MI
When I was first diagnosed, I was in shock. Getting information helped. My husband and children helped by listening and allowing me to cry when I needed to. I also formed a support group at my hospital. Talking as a group and forming friendships is very helpful. We all know what each of us is going through.
Catriona M.
Canal Winchester, OH
Ask family and friends for help and support. It’s so easy to want to try to do it all, but people really do want to help you. You’ll need every ounce of strength you have, so let people bring meals and clean your house if they want to. For many, it’s how they show they love and care about you.
Suzanne K.
San Francisco, CA
Put your energy elsewhere, in a better place. I got involved with new challenges that inspired me. I joined a new company. I got involved with the Cashmere Foundation, which brings the spa experience to patients undergoing chemotherapy. I feel I’m able to pay back, or perhaps pay it forward, while helping others.
Lisa B.
Coral Springs, FL
Within the past 14 years, I’ve been on chemo and hormone therapy. The part that gives me hope is new drugs and therapies are more abundant then 20 years ago, with more to come. Every day, breast cancer is my shadow, but is not my life.
Linda L.
Saddle River, NJ
Be your own advocate. If you have a question for your doctor and don’t understand the answer, ask again. If it’s difficult to speak up, ask a relative or friend to go with you. If you’re not comfortable with your doctor or the treatment she recommends, get a second opinion.
Mary G.
Oregon, WI
Swimming helps my whole body relax and relieves my aching bones. Reaching and pulling strokes stretch out and massage my arm. Yoga keeps my breathing calmer, and I use techniques I learn in class to help me go to sleep at night.
Fabianna M.
Dover, NH
Celebrate small successes. It’s about progress towards wellness, not an all-or-nothing scenario. After surgery, it was a while before I could drive. The day I got back in the driver’s seat, I drove myself to the beach. I remember sitting on a bench for an hour, reveling in the joy of taking my life back.

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