Taking Care of Yourself

It’s important to take care of yourself during the treatment process, especially as you feel some common side effects like fatigue, anxiety or loss of appetite.

Sleep

Extreme tiredness is a normal byproduct of treatment, but other things that may contribute could be not eating enough, not sleeping enough, pain, stress, depression, low blood counts, too much caffeine or added sugars, and dehydration. Taking naps for less than an hour may help increase your energy. It’s also helpful to avoid visual and electronic stimulants like cell phones, computers, and television before bed. Playing soft music and engaging in meditation, prayer or deep breathing are other ways to help you relax.

Well-being

One of the most important ways to take care of yourself during and after treatment is to use effective coping skills - techniques we use to deal with stressors. Many times we turn to coping skills in a crisis, especially those that have worked in past stressful events. Some coping mechanisms are beneficial, but others prove to be more harmful than helpful.

Effective coping skills include gathering information, reaching out to friends and family, participating in relaxation exercises, using humor, engaging in calming activities, writing, and participating in creative activities. Ineffective coping include avoiding problems, holding in or denying emotions, withdrawing from support systems, and engaging in risky behaviors such as excessive drinking, drug use and gambling.

If the way you have previously coped was not healthy or didn’t help in the long run, please consider speaking with a social worker or counselor about better ways to manage stress.

Nutrition

Nutrition is extremely important for cancer patients. By eating the right kinds of food, you can stay strong and feel better.

  • Be open to trying new foods that may appeal to you.
  • Be sure to emphasize plant-based food. Try to add raw, leafy greens and cooked vegetables to meals each day.
  • Choose healthy carbs, especially ones with fiber. Fruit, dried beans, milk and yogurt are good choices.
  • Ask your treatment team about consuming alcohol.
  • To maintain your weight, stay strong, and have energy, you may need extra snacks during your cancer treatment.

Snack ideas:

  • Eat small portions of nutritious snacks throughout the day.
  • Keep a stash of healthy snacks handy if you feel your energy start to wane.
  • Examples include yogurt, pudding or a small bowl of soup.
  • If something you eat disagrees with you, switch to a different snack.
  • Some patients have difficulty maintaining weight. If this is the case, you may need to increase the number of calories you consume each day. If you are maintaining your weight without snacks, you should continue to eat normally.
  • Examples of nutritious snacks include yogurt, peanut butter, cheese and crackers, soup, fruit, milk, supplements such as Ensure or Muscle Milk, protein shakes and bars, granola bars, boiled eggs, vegetables and hummus, salad, nuts and nut butters, pudding
  • To increase calories and protein:
    • Try eating smaller meals more often, even if you aren’t hungry.
    • This might include eating a light, meal later in the evening.
    • Try high-calorie, high-protein shakes or snacks.
    • Try a delicious protein bar available at grocery stores.
    • Try high-calorie, high-protein beverages or supplements.

Physical Activity

Plan your day to have rest breaks and light to moderate activity. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.

Oral Health

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, your dental health is more important than ever. Cancer and its treatments can weaken your immune system, sometimes causing infection in the mouth, which could delay treatments. And once patients start receiving cancer treatment, more than one-third have painful side effects including dry mouth, jaw pain, sensitive gums and mouth sores - affecting basic functions from talking to eating. It’s important to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible before you start treatment and as you proceed, especially with a dentist who’s trained in working with cancer patients.