You can’t change the fact that you’ve had cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life – making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can. This can be a time to look at your life in new ways. Maybe you’re thinking about how to improve your health over the long term. Some people even start during cancer treatment.
Make healthier choices
For many people, finding out they have cancer helps them focus on their health in ways they may not have thought much about in the past. Are there things you could do that might make you healthier? Maybe you could try to eat better or get more exercise. Maybe you could cut down on alcohol, or give up tobacco. Even things like keeping your stress level under control may help. Now is a good time to think about making changes that can have good effects for the rest of your life. You will feel better and you will also be healthier.
You can start by working on those things that worry you most. Get help with those that are harder for you. For instance, if you are thinking about quitting smoking and need help, call the American Cancer Society for information and support at 1-800-227-2345.
Eating right can be hard for anyone, but it can get even tougher during and after cancer treatment. Treatment may change your sense of taste. Nausea can be a problem. You may not feel like eating and lose weight when you don’t want to. Or you may have gained weight that you can’t seem to lose. All of these things can be very frustrating.
If treatment causes weight changes or eating or taste problems, do the best you can and keep in mind that these problems usually get better over time. You may find it helps to eat small portions every 2 to 3 hours until you feel better. You may also want to ask your cancer team about seeing a dietitian, an expert in nutrition who can give you ideas on how to deal with these treatment side effects.
One of the best things you can do after cancer treatment is to start healthy eating habits. You may be surprised at the long-term benefits of some simple changes, like increasing the variety of healthy foods you eat. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and limiting your alcohol intake may lower your risk for a number of types of cancer, as well as having many other health benefits.
To learn more, see our document Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: Answers to Common Questions.
Rest, fatigue, and exercise
Feeling tired (fatigue) is a very common problem during and after cancer treatment. This is not a normal type of tiredness but a bone-weary exhaustion that often doesn’t get better with rest. For some people, fatigue lasts a long time after treatment and can keep them from staying active. But exercise can actually help reduce fatigue and the sense of depression that sometimes comes with feeling so tired.
If you are very tired, though, you will need to balance activity with rest. It’s OK to rest when you need to. To learn more about fatigue, please see our document Fatigue in People With Cancer.
If you were very ill or weren’t able to do much during treatment, it’s normal that your fitness, staying power, and muscle strength declined. You need to find an exercise plan that fits your own needs. Talk with your health care team before starting. Get their input on your exercise plans. Then try to get an exercise buddy so that you’re not doing it alone.
Exercise can improve your physical and emotional health.
- It improves your heart fitness.
- It can help you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- It makes your muscles stronger.
- It reduces fatigue.
- It can help lower anxiety and depression.
- It can help you feel happier.
- It can help you feel better about yourself.
In the long run, we know that getting regular physical activity can help lower the risk of some cancers, as well as having other health benefits.
Last Revised: 01/20/2016