Cancer Treatment Hacks for Your Mind and Body
A cancer diagnosis will understandably bring up many fears and anxieties you will need to work through. Getting through treatment often feels like a battle itself. Maybe you have friends or a partner who can listen and help you process your worries, but you will need ways to support yourself throughout the day (and the long, long nights). Hopefully, you will have people who can help you through your treatment and recovery, but there are also things you can do to nurture and soothe yourself.
Meditation is a fantastic tool for focusing on the present moment. Start small: Try a 10-minute guided meditation in the morning, and then throughout the day, simply shift your focus to your breathing when you feel anxiety rising. You can add to this routine later, but even a small amount is enough to help.
Similarly, somatic work guides you in being present and nonjudgmental with your emotions as you feel and then release them. Somatic work can be used to heal past trauma, but it also provides wonderful techniques to use on a moment-to-moment basis when you feel overwhelmed and anxious. Find a reliable teacher who offers affordable online classes, allowing you to learn this technique without exposing your immune system.
Exercise is great for your mind and body, but for those times when chemotherapy makes it so that a stroll around the block—or even to the kitchen—feels like too much, try yin yoga. Yin yoga is nonstrenuous and very nurturing. Using pillows and props to cradle your body in restorative poses, you can stretch your body while relaxing your mind.
There is nothing easy about chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. There will likely be periods of discomfort or pain, and certainly days when you just want to curl up in the most comfortable thing you can find. Make sure you have warm, cozy sweatpants and soft, loose-fitting tops. If you get a port for chemotherapy, look for specially designed shirts and hoodies that accommodate access to the port without having to stretch out the neck of your T-shirt.
Common side effects of cancer treatment, such as nausea, dehydration and feeling cold down to your bones, can be helped with some well-planned purchases. Collect these items in a beautiful basket or tote you can take with you to your appointments.
- Ginger products: Ginger has been scientifically proven to reduce nausea caused by chemotherapy. For fast relief, try one-half to one gram of ginger a day in pill form. Ginger candy can provide nausea relief while helping with a dry mouth, another common side effect of treatment.
- Hydration: Some potential side effects of chemotherapy, such as vomiting, diarrhea and sweating, make you prone to dehydration. In addition to keeping a water bottle by your side, lather on luxurious moisturizers and lip balms. Don't forget to massage your salve onto your feet, too.
- Cushions: A seat belt cushion may be just the thing you need if you have a chemo port or a sensitive breast area. A seat cushion to bring along to appointments can keep you comfortable while sitting in one spot for long sessions of chemotherapy.
- Cold caps: Look into getting cold caps to wear for your chemotherapy sessions. Cold caps chill your scalp, reducing blood flow to your hair follicles to prevent them from absorbing the chemo drugs. This leads to significantly less hair loss.
- Cozy, warm things: To tackle the perpetual feeling of cold, buy soft, fuzzy socks, a smooth scarf and even leg warmers to layer on when you need it. Bring your own snuggly blanket—maybe try an electric one—to your appointments.
While there is a lot you can do to set yourself up for success, graciously accept the help that is offered to you by your community. Allow your bestie to drive your daughter to school and your neighbor to cut your grass—you have other things to attend to, such as napping.
Designate a point person to coordinate all the offers of help with an app like Lotsa Helping Hands, where people can sign up to provide meals, run errands and give rides (for you and your children). Lotsa also has a convenient place to provide special requests and updates about your health to your support team.
Get your house cleaned by Cleaning for a Reason, a nonprofit that offers two free house cleanings for cancer patients in the United States and Canada.
There are many unknowns on the path to cancer recovery. Lean on your support team for what they can offer and focus your energy on tending to your body and emotions. You got this.