So you’ve received a clean bill of health from your oncologist…congratulations! The biggest hurdle has been cleared, but there’s still some adjusting to do. Namely, getting back to everyday life after the chemotherapy, radiation and lifestyle adjustments.
Getting back to normal following cancer can be considered from physical and mental standpoints. You may be dealing with emotions that didn’t end when the cancer did, and may have made some limitations to physical activity that could be tough to return to. Here are seven tips to get you back into the right place…
1. Reflect on Your Experience
CancerCouncil.com notes that you may not just be able to slide back into a normal existence without taking some time to appreciate what you just went through. “ Many say they need time to stop and reflect on what has happened before they can think about the future,” notes the source.
You may have to put into perspective that you won’t be “the person I once was,” or at least the person you perceive you once were. It was most likely a traumatic experience for you (even if you don’t admit it), so feeling “happy” right away might not be possible, adds the source.
2. Make Your Bed Your Friend Again
It’s important to create optimal conditions for rest following the completion of treatment (to help avoid depression and anxiety), although you may also be dealing with cancer-related fatigue (CRF) that doesn’t go away with sleep, explains an article in Express UK.
While it can take up to 12-months to regain your original energy levels, you may want to talk to your doctor about adjusting medications and ensuring your bedroom is the right temperature for sleeping comfortably, adds the source. “It’s important not to associate bed with anxiety, so don’t go to bed if you’re not tired and get up if you find yourself lying awake,” it offers.
3. Don’t Let Fear Dictate Your Life
You’ve been given the green light to move on with your life, but you may have that voice in the back of your head telling you the cancer will come back. Cancer.net explains that these are normal thoughts for cancer survivors, and you shouldn’t judge yourself for it.
While this fear of recurrence is usually the worst for the first year following treatment, “This worry usually gets better over time,” assures the source. It helps to talk about these fears with a friend or professional instead of just ignoring them, it adds.
4. Don’t Stop Moving
Remaining physically active (even during treatment if possible) is important for overall well-being and to maintain muscle strength, explains the American Cancer Society. When the side effects of treatment subside, you should start off with short periods of exercise and slowly increase time and intensity, it explains.
Remember that exercise may feel more strenuous than it did before the cancer, and that’s normal. “What may be a low- or moderate-intensity activity for a healthy person may seem like a high-intensity activity for some cancer survivors,” explains the source. Moderate activity can be defined as a brisk walk, it adds.
5. Consider Getting Back to Work
You may have taken a leave from work, and for many that can be emotional in itself. Maintaining a stable routine can help many people feel grounded and “normal,” so you may want to consider getting back to your professional duties if you’re able.
“Going back can represent a big step on the way to ‘normal’ or be a sign of overcoming cancer,” explains the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s also nice to have the support of co-workers you may have missed. You can talk to the company’s human resources department (and your doctor) to determine if you’re ready to transition back to work, as they may be able to aid in the process, adds the source.
6. Try Something New
It may be that doing the old things may remind you of life before you faced cancer, which could put pressure on you to reach that place. However, life after cancer doesn’t have to be the same; it can be an opportunity to expand your horizons, notes CureToday.com.
The site explains this may be a good time to take up a new hobby, like something athletic or artistic. “The reality is that you are a new version of yourself, so why not start something that you’ve always wanted to do, but never tried?” it notes. This will attach more positive feelings to this new stage of life rather than just referring to it as “life after cancer,” it adds.
7. Adjust Your Diet
You don’t have to get back to the big portions you ate before treatment; the key is to get balanced nutrition. The Mayo Clinic offers fairly specific dietary guidelines for post-cancer patients, which includes at least 2.5-cups of fruits and veggies per day.
Aside from that, choose foods with “healthy” fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids (rather than saturated fats). Get your proteins from fish, lean meats, or nuts and legumes, adds the source. Don’t ply your system with vitamin supplements, which can actually be bad for you, it warns.