Cancer can be a traumatic experience and, if you let it, one that can strip away much of your identity. While there will be good days and bad, how well you take care of yourself will play a major role in how the disease impacts your day-to-day life.
1. Take control
It’s okay to be selfish. You’ve got a lot on your plate, and now is the time to put yourself in the #1 spot. HuffPost contributor and cancer advocate Cara Tompot notes, your choices are your own. Whether you decide to continue with your normal routines, or break away from the mundane and try something new, is up to you. Don’t feel pressured to behave according to someone else’s image of a cancer patient. Break the mold, and do the things in life that make you feel good. This may be an excellent time to go back to school, take up a new hobby, or plan a cancer-friendly vacation with your family. Use your cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to learn how to focus on the things that matter most to you.
2. Appreciate alternative approaches
In addition to traditional Western medicine, there are a number of alternative treatment methods that may help ease the pain and keep your body strong throughout your battle with cancer. According to the National University of Health Sciences, 35 percent of U.S. hospitals now offer complementary and alternative medicine to patients dealing with cancer and other long-term illnesses. Oriental medicine, arguably the oldest medicine in the world, combines herbal medication, nutrition, acupuncture, and balancing movements. Newer forms of alternative medicine, like Cannabidiol (CBD), may help address both the mental and physical symptoms of pain and illness by keeping you calmer and helping your body better regulate its own core functions.
3. Lean on your canine companion
Finding out you have a disease is an incredibly emotional event, but you don’t have to face it alone. More than just friends and family, a dog is your own personal support system, complete with four legs and a heart that beats just for you. Dogs are not only a distraction from chemo, radiation, and an endless cycle of doctor appointments, they can also help you stay calm during stressful situations. According to Masthead, you should check with your doctor and take the proper precautions to keep you and your pet healthy and happy.
4. Strive for sanctity
Getting in touch with your spiritual side—no matter what that means to you―can help you manage the stress that goes along with any illness, cancer included. Don’t look at cancer as the end but rather a new beginning. It’s a jumping-off point where you can reconnect with your higher power or higher self. Go to church, read philosophical texts, take a weekly yoga class, hike—put yourself in whatever situations get you closer to finding that elusive peace that surpasses understanding.
5. Create connections
Self-care, in part, consists of forming relationships with others. This might be your doctors and nurses, friends and family, or support group of other cancer patients. Choose to bring people into your life who help you put a positive spin on your circumstances. Not only will your network give you something to lean on when you’re feeling down, but social interactions can also stave off depression, loneliness, stress, and anxiety, which are all common in newly diagnosed cancer patients. And you never know when one of your connections may introduce you to other coping methods, such as volunteer opportunities, new music, or travel. Thankfully, we live in a world where a cancer diagnosis isn’t a death sentence. The Cancer Research Institute reports cancer deaths are down 25 percent in the last three decades, and survival rates increase with each passing year. It’s devastating, yes, but living with—and beating—cancer starts with self-care, a positive attitude, and the knowledge that this disease doesn’t have to take away the best parts of you.