How to support your mind, body and spirit as a cancer survivor
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) predicts there are over 18 million cancer survivors in the United States, with that number only expected to grow. In fact, the NCI believes there will be 22.5 million cancer survivors by 2032. In honor of National Cancer Survivor Month (June), we are sharing a few tips on how people in all stages of the cancer journey can support themselves physically, nutritionally and emotionally.
Eat a balanced diet
When you eat a well-balanced and healthy diet, you are more likely able to maintain a healthier weight, as well as combat side effects from treatment and have more energy. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a diet that includes:
- Foods high in nutrients
- A variety of vegetables and fiber-rich legumes
- Plenty of fruit in a variety of colors
- Whole grains
Additionally, the ACS recommends decreasing the consumption of:
- Red and processed meats
- Beverages high in sugars and sweeteners
- Highly processed foods
- Refined grain products
- Alcohol (limit to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men)
While these are general recommendations, talk to your care team if you have any questions or concerns about your diet, especially if you are currently in active treatment. Your dietary needs may differ depending on your cancer type and where you are in your cancer journey.
Participate in regular exercise
Exercise offers several benefits if you are currently in active cancer treatment or have completed it. It can help with recovery, reduce treatment-related fatigue, help improve your mood and sleep, and help reduce any (lingering) side effects. Some studies have also shared that participating in regular exercise can have a significant reduction in recurrence or cancer return.
If you already have or had an exercise routine established, you should be able to continue it in most cases. However, make sure you listen to your body and rest if you are feeling fatigued. If you are beginning to exercise, your care team can help you identify which activities are best for you. They might recommend starting slow, such as taking a brisk walk every day, for example.
Talk to your care team before starting an exercise routine. Some activities, for example, can be over strenuous and impact your recovery.
Support your emotional wellbeing
It’s common to experience a range of emotions during treatment and even after completing it. It’s also important to be kind to yourself and find ways to help manage stress and anxiety.
While each person will find comfort in different things, you may want to consider the following:
- Celebrating yourself – you are a survivor. That’s something to honor!
- Attending a cancer support group or online community to talk with other people who are going or have gone through a similar journey. If you’re unsure where to start, check out our list of cancer support organizations.
- Gardening, journaling, yoga, meditation or movement therapy, as these activities can help with relaxation.
- Massage therapy or acupuncture, but talk to your care team before scheduling an appointment to ensure your body can tolerate these modalities well.
- Asking for help. There’s no shame in talking to a counselor or psychiatrist if you struggle to cope or have depression.
Cancer treatment is not easy. It takes a lot of emotion, trust, and effort to put your life in someone else's hands, and that's why we strive to support our patients both during and after treatment. At GenesisCare, we support, recognize, honor and celebrate every person diagnosed with cancer. If you are still in active treatment, talk to your care team about appropriate physical, nutritional and emotional support activities. Many healthcare systems, including GenesisCare, offer integrative oncology services to support the whole person, not just the cancer diagnosis.