As the physical effects of cancer and the side effects from cancer treatment are common, it can take time to transition to life after cancer. Taking each day as it comes, getting some regular exercise, a nutritious diet and enough rest are a few important factors to consider.
Exercise is a vital part of healthy living. Being active during and after cancer treatment is important for mental and physical health and can help alleviate some of the side effects. However, a common side effect of cancer and treatment is fatigue which can hinder exercise, with 75% of cancer patients reporting ongoing fatigue following on from treatment. A physiotherapist can help and advise how best to exercise by putting together a program that best suits your type of cancer and the symptoms which you are experiencing. This may incorporate some stretching exercises to increase flexibility or brisk short walks which can be increased as your energy levels improve. You may like to incorporate yoga and meditation which may help to reduce fatigue, improve mood and aid in restfulness. Being physically active can also help to reduce the chance of cancer reoccuring but it is important to prioritise your activities and not set unachievable goals. It is also important to recognise the need to rest at regular intervals throughout the day to allow your body to repair.
The side effects of treatment can also cause changes in eating habits and weight. So you may find you eat less and lose weight, whilst some treatments can cause you to gain weight. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of nutritious food is important as an inadequate intake of calories and nutrients can compound side effects such as fatigue. Eating small regular meals throughout the day will help to keep your energy levels up. Recognise the need to get support from family members with cooking meals, food preparation, shopping and cooking in bulk. Cancer Australia recommends consuming adequate dietary fibre, including unprocessed cereals (grains) and pulses (legumes), and aiming for five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day. It is also recommended to lower your intake of red meat to less than 500 g per week and avoid processed meat, salt and processed foods. When you next see your GP or specialist, ask them to suggest a local dietitian, as it is always best to seek advice to get the best possible outcome.