Moving Forward Together

Last week, I highlighted the top five areas you indicated cancer has most affected your life. But what about the less glaring areas that still very much affect you?
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If you’re undergoing cancer treatment and find your energy is bottomed out no matter how much rest you get, you may be suffering from cancer fatigue. This can last for weeks or even months after treatment ends.

  • Not eating properly can make it worse. Make sure to nourish your body with the right foods to keep your energy levels up.
  • Listen to your body when it says enough is enough. Don’t over do it and rest up when you need it. Everything else can wait!
  • Talk to your doctor about your fatigue if you have symptoms, especially lingering long into recovery.

You’ve heard before that your attitude is everything, but the idea of having a positive outlook every day is completely unrealistic. However, an incredibly important part of coping and recovery is to recognize your feelings and emotions.

  • Seek out therapy to deal with your emotions. Work closely with a professional with the goal of feeling more upbeat, seeing the positive and having a better quality of life.
  • Sadness, depression, guilt, fear and anxiety are all normal parts of having cancer and recovering from cancer. If you need someone to talk to, email me or reach out to one of your fellow Joybooters who can relate. Find support wherever and however you’re comfortable.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and then take control over them before they take control over you. When you’re in a slump, take a walk, watch funny videos online, look through family photos– whatever removes you from the present moment and propels you into a happier, more positive one.
Physical Ability
Depending on the type of cancer you have, your overall health and where you are in your treatment, you may suffer from physical limitations or even lasting physical side effects from cancer. Respect your physical boundaries, but also keep in mind the positive effects that exercise has on your physical body, your mood and your spirit.
  • Too much downtime can lead to loss of function, muscle weakness, reduced range of motion, blood clots and fatigue, so do any amount of exercise you’re comfortable with that doesn’t cause too much pain or discomfort.
  • Stay as active and as fit as possible by finding activities you enjoy or even trying new, lower impact ones like yoga, dancing or swimming.
  • Just like before cancer, physical activity in your daily life is essential to your long term health. Staying active, even if you’re only able to take short walks, will help you in recovery and beyond when dealing with the lasting side effects.
Impacting Others

Cancer will affect other people besides you.  Your loved ones will likely experience much of the same fear and sadness as you. You may find yourself relying on others more than you’re comfortable out of necessity.  Sometimes people may distance themselves from you.

  • The stress of diagnosis, treatment and recovery can be hard on a marriage or committed relationship. Know that you are not alone in this. Consider reaching out for support from a marriage counselor or individual therapist.
  • Some people may not have the capacity to be a friend to you during this time. This can be painful. Try not to blame yourself for this.
  • You may find that people you barely knew become important parts of your life and that you are better for getting to know them. Be willing to risk connecting with new people through support groups and other healthy activities.
Feeling Disengaged
You may feel disconnected from your life before cancer, your job before cancer, your friends before cancer or your interests before cancer. At times, you may feel completely disconnected from the past and disengaged from the present. Or sometimes you may feel down for no particular reason at all.
  • Whether it’s a spouse, sibling, parent, friend, fellow Joybooter or professional– get support from those who care about your happiness and your mental wellbeing.
  • Being disengaged from life and from the things that would typically bring you joy can manifest into depression if not treated. Talk to your doctor if you have feelings of depression that lasts for more than a few days.
As you reach the end of active treatment or a plateau, you may begin to re-assess your goals and priorities to find that they have shifted, sometimes dramatically, both from necessity or by choice.
How can you move forward even as you continue to heal?  In my own recovery, I needed to create a new framework for my healing.  In working with survivors, I developed 6 Principles for Emotional Recovery that I have found helpful to share.
This fall, I’m again offering my 6 week online course: Healing Well:Reconnect to Your Life After Cancer. While these principles truly apply to everyone, I love sharing them with my fellow JoyBooters.

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