Our certified patient and family support navigators spend every day on the phone providing guidance and encouragement to patients, survivors, caregivers, and others. We asked each of them, plus some our programs staff, to share their favorite tips for ways patients and survivors can take care of themselves.
Ask for help. No man is an island, so ask for help when you need it! Family and friends want to help, but they don’t always know how. Speak up and let them help carry the load. Don’t lose touch with your support system. Make lunch and dinner dates with friends, and stay in the loop to build your sense of belonging. Consider joining a support group to make new friends. – Nancy Butterfield
Give yourself a break. Go to your favorite spot in the woods, on the lake, at the beach, or anywhere, and spend time honoring you and your journey so far. Pat yourself on the back for getting through treatments, or for getting back on this horse we call life. This is especially important if you are single and are your own caregiver. If you have a partner, write a loving note thanking them for accompanying you on your journey, and surprise them with an activity on the calendar that you both will love! – Jeannie Moore
Meditate. With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, not to mention the challenges of a cancer diagnosis, it can be difficult to quiet your mind and relax. Mindful meditation can be a great tool to help you relax before a doctor’s appointment, when you have trouble falling asleep at night, or if you just “need a minute.” Different types of guided imagery meditation are available online for free, and it can take as little as two minutes! – Lauren LeFew
Schedule a massage. Give your hands and feet a little TLC. As a survivor, I learned that there is no way to prevent neuropathy. I used reflexology to help cope with the symptoms and side effects. Have a friend or partner give you a foot and hand massage to help relieve the symptoms. Reflexology may also help with stress, anxiousness, nausea, and sleep problems. Here is an abstract from the NCBI. – Kim Newcomer
Don’t forget about the “old you.” A cancer diagnosis can make a person feel as if everything they have done in life is slipping away. As we adjust to our new normal, it’s important to integrate our old selves into our new life as well. Do the things you always loved to do. Don’t let cancer define you. Just because your circumstances have changed doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your entire life. Enjoy being you. – Stephen Estrada
Get a pup. As a survivor myself, I think the single-most-important thing a survivor can do is get a dog. Dogs are great at stress release. They also take you for a walk. Walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week is a one of the best ways to prevent recurrence and ensure overall health. – Crawford Clay
Find joy in ordinary things. As the caregiver to a 13-year stage IV colorectal survivor, my first suggestion is to take time for you, away from your cancer. Don’t let cancer define your sense of self. Find some joy in each day. I find that the sunrise and sunset still give me a sense of peace. Finally, find beauty in your surroundings and take the scenic route. After all, what is the hurry? There is such an abundance of beauty all around us, take advantage of it. – Valerie Awad