Looking after yourself when you’re living with cancer can make a real difference to how you feel. Here’s what you need to know about food, sleep, exercise and more during cancer treatment.
If your treatment is making you feel sick or affecting your appetite, speak to your medical team. They might put you in touch with a dietician who can help. Also try to eat small, frequent meals, cut food up small, eat with other people to take your mind off food and keep a sick bag nearby, just in case. High-calorie foods (cheese, milkshakes, ice cream), energy drinks and protein-rich foods (beans, eggs, fish, meat) can also help.
With some treatments, you might be asked to stick to a specific diet. Ask your medical team if you have any questions.
Some treatments – particularly steroids – can cause you to put on weight. This is usually temporary, and it’s really important you don’t avoid eating to try and stop putting weight on. Try to focus on eating healthily, filling up on fruit and veg, drinking lots of water and being active when you can. Wearing clothes you feel comfortable in and talking about how you feel can help too. You’ll be able to think about losing any weight once treatment is done. Your team might put you in touch with a dietician who can help.
Macmillan’s website has more information about eating healthily during cancer
These aren’t medical terms, but some people say during chemo they get spaced out, struggle to concentrate or find it hard to think clearly. If you feel like this, keep yourself safe – no driving. Putting reminders in your phone or a diary can help. Symptoms tend to improve after chemo, but talk to your care team if you’re worried.
If you’re feeling wiped out during treatment, it’s important to listen to your body. But on the days you feel better, being active can help increase your energy levels, boost you self-esteem and reduce the risk of other health issues.
Try and set yourself achievable targets. That could mean:
A walk around the park
A few squats or stretches
Going swimming with friends (check this is OK with your care team first)
A bike ride
A gentle exercise class
Cancer can leave you feeling exhausted, so you’d think sleeping would be easy. Sadly it’s not always that simple. Here are some ideas to try if you’re struggling to sleep.
Have a routine – Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
Relax in the evenings – Watch a film. Listen to music. Do whatever makes you feel calm.
Watch what you drink – Try milk or water rather than coffee, coke, energy drinks or alcohol, which can all affect your sleep.
Exercise – Even a little physical activity can help you feel ready for sleep.
Write down difficult thoughts – rather than lying awake going over them again and again.
Switch off – Leave your phone in another room and make your bedroom just for sleeping.
Give up easily – If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, read or listen to music to relax then try again.
It’s hard not to be affected if cancer changes how you look. Worrying about your appearance doesn’t make you vain or self-obsessed. It just makes you human.
Over time, the way you feel about your body will probably start to improve. In the meantime you could:
Try a new look. Find your style with a wig, hat or some new clothes.
Experiment with make-up. Small changes can make you feel very different.
Hang out with the right people. Good friends make you feel good about yourself.
Talk about your feelings. Don’t bottle things up. People will only know you’re worried if you tell them.
Remember you’re still the same. Cancer might change how you look, but it doesn’t change who you are.