How do you take care of YOU while undergoing cancer treatment?

As Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapists, Luci and Emily have met many patients and their loved ones at a very stressful and uncertain time.  Taking the best possible care of yourself while undergoing cancer treatment can help you cope and feel better during each stage of treatment and once the treatments are completed.

Here are 10 tips we recommend to help people going through cancer treatment:

1) Listen to your medical team, not Dr Google. Every single person’s cancer is different — even those diagnosed as the same type and stage. People respond very differently to treatment and need individualised rehabilitation to suit them. Burning mental cycles by speculating and comparing your situation to others is a waste of time and energy.

2) See a certified Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapist EARLY to get advice on how to maximise your recovery and what you can do to prepare yourself for upcoming treatment. It is empowering to be proactive and take control of the things you CAN control.

Know how to help yourself.

3) Learn to ask for and accept help; you can pay it forward later. A cancer rehabilitation physiotherapist will guide you on what activities, house work or exercise you can safely do and what you should ask for help with while your body is recovering from surgery or during treatment.

Often we put ourselves last, but this is a time to look after yourself.

4) Get pain, swelling, pins and needles, signs of infection and stiffness assessed early. Addressing signs and symptoms early can save a lot of time and money later, improve your recovery time and prevent long-term problems.

5) Learn to breathe properly. It takes a huge amount of emotional energy to cope with a cancer diagnosis. This often disrupts normal breathing patterns, which can in turn make it more difficult to relax, sleep well and cope with treatment. A cancer rehabilitation or breathing works physio can teach you how to breathe better again.

6) Avoid inactivity- move your body. Any kind of physical activity can be helpful, even if it isn’t moderate or vigorous intensity. Short sessions help. If you don’t have the time or energy for a long exercise session, go for shorter periods. The health benefits of several short, 10-minute segments are similar to those of one longer exercise session. The type, intensity and duration of exercise may need to change from what you have previously done and a cancer rehabilitation physiotherapist can design a safe and effective exercise prescription for you to do during treatment.

7) Be proactive in your rehabilitation, it can help reduce the short and long term side effects of treatment. For example, by doing appropriate stretches throughout your radiation therapy, you can help reduce the impact on your function and range of motion.

e.g. radiation in the arm pit region for breast cancer will affect the skin and structures under the arm. Stretches will make it less likely to get issues with the arm such as tightness and weakness.

8) Make YOU a priority, probably for the first time in your life. Self-care is not selfish or a luxury; it’s a necessity for you right now. Save your energy for activities that will help your body heal and feel better.

9) Set your intentions on the future.  Keep a journal. Plan for the future and talk out loud about the things you’re going to do after treatment. It is important to look forward.

10) Take time to enjoy at least something every day and stay connected to friends and family that can help you do this.

InnerStrength of Bayside Physiotherapists Luci Minogue and Emily Smyth are both Certified Pinc Cancer Rehabilitation Physiotherapists. For more information on the Pinc and Steel Cancer Rehabilitation Programs, please click here.