How do you move on after cancer?
The ongoing challenges of life after cancer treatment are not well recognised. Many people believe you're supposed to just pick up exactly where you were before you were diagnosed. You are supposed to head back to your life and resume like it's just another Monday. Except it's not a normal Monday.
Here are ten tips I recommend to help people who have finished cancer treatment get back to living as fully and actively as possible:
1. Get a physical and functional assessment with a certified cancer rehabilitation physiotherapist: One very important part of recovery from the debilitating side-effects of cancer surgery and treatment is correcting postural changes, muscle imbalances and improving stamina. A cancer rehabilitation physiotherapist can help you re-educate your body to restore its’ normal balance. If left this can impact other parts of your body, limit function, cause pain, inflammation and reduce your stamina further.
2. Try to be patient and treat yourself gently: Each person is unique and heals differently. Your recovery speed depends on many things including your pre-treatment fitness level and the type of treatments you had.
3. Be proactive about doing things to decrease stress: There is no way to navigate a cancer diagnosis without a tremendous amount of stress. Much of the stress that goes along with a cancer diagnosis is related to the uncertainty that accompanies it. Too much stress can make you feel emotionally battered. Being proactive about doing things that decrease stress is the best way to manage it. We know things like meditation and exercise can help. Stress can also be greatly reduced when we increase our social and emotional connections. Put simply: TOGETHER WE’RE BETTER. So try to schedule in time to do something you enjoy with the people you love each week.
4. Let go of the unimportant: Fatigue is being tired – physically, mentally and emotionally and it is the most common side effect of cancer treatment. If some days you are feeling like you can’t get out of bed, rest assured you are not alone. Cancer related fatigue can last for months to years after treatment. It is important that you seek support as if left untreated, it will severely impact your quality of life. Talk to a PINC or STEEL Physio, as cancer related fatigue is manageable with help. It is important to try not to over tax yourself by trying to fit too much into your day – you need to let go of the unimportant and delegate when you can.
5. Seek support to help you incorporate more activity into your week: Improving your stamina and fitness can be a catalyst to move your life in a more positive direction regardless of what you've gone through. The type, intensity and duration of activity should be prescribed by a cancer rehabilitation health professional to safely and effectively manage your return to fitness. Exercise is a priority but it needs to invigorate you, not wear you out.
6. Check in with your doctor or physio: Your health and recovery process is always changing. It’s important to have your doctor monitor your blood count, muscle and joint pain, nausea, and fatigue. You may also have lingering health concerns a physio or lymphedema therapist needs to evaluate. If you are struggling to cope at work make sure you seek help to manage this for you.7. Stay connected: The importance of a community that ‘Just Gets It” can’t be overstated. Joining in with a group exercise program, like Next Steps or PaddleOn, or others you have in your area, bring people recovering from cancer together and the bonds they make form a very important support network going forward.
8. Get some green: Studies have shown that getting outside and reconnecting with nature can help lift depression, improve energy and boost overall wellbeing and mental health. Spending even just 20 minutes outside per day could boost energy levels and give you a greater sense of vitality.
9. Balanced nutrition is a very important part of recovering from cancer treatment: A healthy diet can help rebuild your body’s cells and energy levels. Since every person is unique and has their own set of needs, I encourage you to meet with a registered dietitian or experienced nutritionist one to one, to develop an individualised eating plan.
10. Set small goals and celebrate your wins: Taking the first step to write down a goal gives you something to strive towards, as well as look forward to. The sense of accomplishment that comes from achieving your goals can feel very empowering, satisfying and healing. Don’t forget to celebrate each little win you have on your road to recovery. The 365 Survive to Thrive journal has been specifically designed to help you prioritise your health and plan ahead. www.survivetothrive.co.nz
Above all, try to remember that even the dark days will pass. Don’t suffer on your own, seek support. Pinc & Steel Physiotherapists understand the challenges you are going through, visit www.pincandsteel.com
Take care of you, best wishes Lou .