Living healthy with cancer

by Hannah Leatherbury, Education Contributor

Yesterday, I met a woman who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at age 36. The disease ran in her family, but she never thought it would happen to her, and certainly not at her age. Now in her late 40’s, this woman said the experience was her wake up call to take better care of herself and to commit to doing the things that were within her power to do, because so many aspects of having cancer made her feel like she had no control.

The Cancer Support Community shares four key aspects of this experience in the new Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Living Healthy with Cancer series. Living Healthy with Cancer means feeling empowered to make decisions about your cancer treatment and everything that happens after your cancer diagnosis. The series emphasizes the following key aspects of your daily life with cancer:

  • Emotional health – This is a time in your life when you can re-evaluate your relationships with others and what causes stress in your life. You can bolster your outlook into a more positive place by prioritizing time spent with people who inspire feelings of joy, wisdom and peace. Use this time to evaluate those tasks and activities in your life that need to be adjusted or completely stopped in order to maintain a more healthy stress level. This doesn’t necessarily mean quitting your job or letting go of family responsibilities, but it does mean considering different deadlines and asking for help from others.
  • Ability to eat nutritious foods – When and what you eat can support your efforts during treatment. To avoid nausea, eat more frequent meals with smaller portions throughout the day. Extra protein and calories are also recommended to help you heal tissues and fight off infections – organic meat, nuts and nut butters are all ways to offer good protein to your body. Also incorporate whole grains and legumes like whole wheat bread or tortillas, oats, brown rice and beans and lentils into your diet. Go easy on fat, salt, sugar and smoked and pickled foods.
  • Exercise routine – Studies show that exercise can reduce the symptoms of tiredness and break the cycle of fatigue that often accompany cancer treatment. Try exercising for small amounts of time several times a day instead of one long extended time period. Get creative with how you define ‘exercise’ – part of your routine can be walking the dog around the neighborhood or taking the stairs in a tall building. When you’re really tired, stretching and breathing exercises are beneficial and support your healing process.
  • Medical care – Managing doctor’s appointments, new medications and side effects from cancer treatment can be challenging. Know that your healthcare team and those who care for you can help keep you on track by helping you take notes and creating schedules for your treatment.  Always make a point to ask questions if you find yourself confused or unsure about your next steps.

You can learn more tips and advice on living healthy with cancer by listening to our radio show dedicated to discussing what you can do (as someone with cancer OR a loved one caring for someone living with cancer) to live better during treatment.


About Ivy Ahmed

Ivy Ahmed is the Vice President of Education and Outreach at the Cancer Support Community. In this position she oversees the development, promotion and implementation of national CSC education programs. She also oversees the development of online educational materials and national professional outreach related to education programs. Ivy has over 15 years in public health and has worked in both the private and public sectors promoting cancer education. She served as a health educator and case manager with the District of Columbia’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and as the health communications manager with Lockheed Martin on a contract to support to the NCI’s Cancer Information Service. Ivy holds two degrees from the George Washington University, a Bachelor in Literature and a Master of Public Health.

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