The Importance of Self Care During Cancer Treatment

 by Scott Sanders

Looking after your mind and your spirit can be a hard thing to do when your body won’t
cooperate. Amid rounds of chemo treatment and pharmacy trips, the last thing you feel like
doing is putting anything else on your to-do list. However, if you can make time to nurture your
spirit, you may feel the effects in your body as well.

Let It Go
Right now, you’re dealing with something traumatic. It’s okay to focus on yourself and what you
need. If you can help your loved ones deal with what they’re experiencing, that’s great, but
that’s not your responsibility at this time. You do you. Whether that means screaming at the sky
or distracting yourself with a binge TV marathon, you do whatever makes you feel happier and
better. Don’t bottle up what you’re feeling; instead, confront it head on and express it in
whatever way you need to. Some people feel that letting their anger or sadness out in creative
ways, such as art or journaling, helps them vent those bad feelings. Some people join support
groups and find that sharing their own, as well as hearing the experiences of others, can be
helpful. Do whatever works for you to deal with your situation.

Let the Good Stuff Happen

When we’re suffering through a serious illness, it’s easy to focus on all the bad things in our
lives. The pain, nausea, and exhaustion can seem overwhelming. But if you can take time to
meditate on it, you can always find something in your life that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t even
have to be a big thing. Maybe it’s a friend who made you laugh, an okay test result, or a food
that tasted good today. Small victories these may be, but they’re yours. Remember to celebrate
them. Take time to do things to make you feel better, and reward yourself for your
accomplishments. This can be as simple as ordering yourself something pretty or going outside
to sit in the garden and take in the view. Do something that makes you happy each day.

Ask for Help
You really can’t do this by yourself, so don’t try to. Your loved ones probably want to help but
don’t know what to do. Tell them what you need, and ask for the support and assistance you
hope to receive. In larger terms, it’s okay to ask your higher power (if you have one) for help,
too. If you find it helpful, embrace your spirituality. But if you don’t subscribe to theological ideas,
you can still look to your network of friends and family for guidance, comfort, and a helping hand
when it’s needed.

Take Precautions
This is just common sense advice. You’re going to be in a lot of pain, and the doctor is going to
want to help you manage it. Make sure you’re managing your pain responsibly, so you can
avoid falling into the trap of opioid addiction. Use what is required to make your pain bearable,
and communicate openly with your doctor about your pain level. Don’t avoid taking medication
that you need because you’re worried about the potential for addiction. Good communication
with your physician is key. Talk to him about how you are feeling, and be honest. He may have
suggestions for lowering your pain with different medications, or you may be able to make use
of alternative methods of pain management. Yoga and other exercises can be helpful for some
patients. Others find relief in aromatherapy, massage, and acupressure. Just be mindful of the
risks and pay attention to how the medication makes you feel.
You’re fighting for your life and doing everything you can to win. Just as your body needs fuel to
heal, your soul needs to be filled up so it can sustain you through this crisis. Nurture your spirit
with joy. It will give you the emotional resources you need to keep fighting the good fight.

Scott Sanders is the creator of CancerWell.org, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer.