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Posted on June 9, 2018 at 1:35 AM

Perhaps you’ve heard that one out of three people in the U.S. will have cancer during their lifetime, but you never thought you’d be one of them. Suddenly, you’ve entered the world of oncology appointments and treatments. As if this isn’t taxing enough, it feels like everyone from your hairstylist to your sister’s Facebook friends are offering advice (or wanting to sell you essential oils and vitamins!). While knowledge is power, the profusion of opinions can sometimes feel overwhelming. So what’s a person to do? Self-care is essential, and here are nine strategies to help:

Be true to yourself. For some, support groups are key; for others, they feel annoying. Some want to be surrounded by loved ones, while others need space and privacy. If phone calls and texts are wearing you out, try sending a weekly update -- or not. You choose when you want to talk about your cancer and with whom.

As cliché as it sounds, a positive attitude is everything right now. Kevin P. Ryan, M.D., award-winning author and clinical full professor at U.C. Davis School of Medicine, states, “Your survival depends on a positive attitude.” A positive mindset begins with positive self-talk. Seek out positive activities and set positive goals for yourself.

Buy a notebook and always keep it with you. It’s helpful to have everything written down in one place, like what your oncologist said at your last appointment or the name of a soothing tea you just read about. Jot down questions that come to you in the middle of the night, quotes that inspire you, or little reminders. Sure, there are apps for this, but when you’re feeling off your game, there’s nothing like a simple paper notebook.

Find ways to manage your stress. Relaxation exercises, bubble baths, hypnosis, guided imagery, yoga -- find activities that bring your stress level down, and do them.

Take a walk on the alternative side: Try acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, or whatever interests you. Acupuncture, for example, has been shown to help ease nausea and relieve some types of cancer-related pain. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before trying any new modality.

While there will be days you won’t feel like getting out of bed, you will feel better if you don’t neglect your appearance. Look Good Feel Better has programs for women and men who are dealing with cancer.

Say YES when people offer to help you. Don’t even think about saying no if people offer to bring you meals, help with laundry, run errands, or clean your oven. (Actually, if someone offers to clean your oven, go ahead and say yes to whatever they offer!)

Explore your spiritual side. According to research published in a journal of the American Cancer Society, spiritual well-being was associated with less anxiety, depression, and distress. Spirituality includes whatever gives you a state of peace or spiritual connection. Some practices are prayer, meditation, worship, or simply spending time in nature or assisting others.

Opioid painkillers are often part of cancer treatment. Because opioids may give a feeling of euphoria in addition to pain relief, you could find yourself in a battle between pain management and dependency or addiction. This is why you need to be honest with your physician. Even if you’ve never had a problem with drugs or alcohol, you need to tell your doctor if any of your family members have. There is a strong link between genetics and addiction, and your doctor can provide you with the safest treatments based on your individual needs. Only take medication as directed, and familiarize yourself with the warning signs of dependency. Let your doctor know immediately if you feel you may be developing a problem.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed with cancer or are in the final stages of treatment, there is hope. According to new research, your chances of living a full life after cancer are better now than ever been before. As you navigate through this new world, give yourself permission to do things your way while using strategies of radical self-care. You may find yourself with some new habits, greater health, and maybe even a clean oven!


Scott Sanders

Look Good Feel Better -

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