If you’ve recently ended cancer treatment, you’re probably looking forward to this next phase in your life. And odds are, you want to do all you can to feel good and stay well. This is the perfect time to make your lifestyle even healthier.
Your cancer doctor should talk to you about a post-treatment wellness plan. If they don't mention it, you should ask. They may even refer you to another health professional, like a nurse or social worker, who can help.
You can get a head start with these steps.
Healthy foods, especially plant-based foods, can boost your energy, keep your weight in check, and improve your overall health. Try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Opt for legumes (beans) and whole grains instead of processed foods. For example, choose oatmeal instead of sugary cereal. Do all you can to slash the amount of sugar, red meat, processed meat, and processed foods you eat.
If You Smoke, Quit
It’s one of the best things you can do to improve your health and lower your odds of several cancers. Most people who kick the habit use more than one type of help (for example, a prescription nicotine replacement patch and talk therapy). Check out the free resources at SmokeFree.gov.
Skip the Booze
Alcohol can increase your odds of certain kinds of cancer. It’s also linked to other problems, like anxiety and sleep troubles. Limit the amount you drink (ask your doctor how much is safe for you) or stop altogether.
Regular physical activity after cancer treatment is crucial. It boosts your mood and makes you less likely to get anxious or depressed. It should help you handle physical problems like pain, exhaustion, and diarrhea. It could make your cancer less likely to return and help you live longer.
Aim for about 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking or biking, most days. If you haven’t been active in a while, start slowly and build up over time. Always talk to your doctor before you start a new routine.
If treatment or complications have led to weakness, swelling, or other issues that make it hard for you to get moving, you might work with a physical therapist. Your doctor should be able to suggest one who works with people who’ve had cancer.
Get Good Sleep
A good night’s rest helps you physically and mentally. Constant lack of sleep may weaken your immune system and lead to weight gain. Tips to fall and stay asleep include:
- Get some sun outside or through the window to help your body tell day from night.
- Keep naps to a minimum and brief.
- Try to wake and go to bed at set times.
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping, and keep smartphones and other electronic devices out.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Both are stimulants.
Manage Your Stress
The worries don’t always end when treatment stops. You might feel anxious, depressed, or worried that your cancer will return. That’s why stress reduction should be a regular part of your post-treatment wellness plan.
Think about things that make you feel good and relaxed. Make a point to do them regularly. Exercise, visit friends, get a massage, do some yoga, pray, or pick up a hobby like reading. Or try them all -- each is a good option.
If you feel blue, anxious, or just not like yourself, therapy can help. Look for a licensed clinical mental health professional, like a psychologist, therapist or social worker. Choose one who’s worked with people that have cancer. Your doctor or nurse should be able to suggest someone.
Get Extra Help
While lifestyle changes are important, it can also help to see other medical professionals. Regular doctor visits (cancer-related and otherwise) are important. Depending on your situation, your doctor or health care team may send you to a mental health counselor, a post-cancer peer support group, a dietitian, or other professionals.
If cancer changed the way you feel, think, move, or function, you might try occupational therapy. This type of treatment can help you change the way you move and alter your environment (like your home and office) and activities.