Certified Personal Trainer
BA in Human Performance/Exercise Health Science
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Cancer is one of the most widespread public health concerns in the United States. As recently as 2016, 1.68 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the US, and the disease kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Perhaps even more shocking, by some estimates, nearly 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes.
To properly treat cancer, no substitute exists for the expertise of an oncologist -- but what about taking care of your spiritual wellness after you’ve received a cancer diagnosis? Your illness will take a toll on your emotional being, and it’s important to take care of your mental health during this life-changing period. Here are some lifestyle tips that can help you through the mental and physical exertion of being a cancer patient.
Oncological consultation is the only effective treatment for cancer. These treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, and stem cell transplant, among others. As you prepare for treatment, learn what to expect beforehand so you’re emotionally ready for the appointments you might have to undergo, such as lab tests, provider visits, imaging testing, hospital stays, or home care visits.
Even after all that rigmarole, patients who beat cancer often face the prospect of living with pain. An estimated 50% of cancer survivors state that the chronic pain in their lives impinges on their ability to perform daily tasks and functions. In the last 25 years, many cases have occurred in which painkillers have been over-prescribed to cancer (and other) patients. The result? Many people signing out of the hospital with addiction problems. Consider these steps to prevent potential addiction issues: talking to your doctor to double check that you’re being given the appropriate dosage, insisting that a nurse or a physician guides you through a safe pain management tutorial, and asking for a follow-up appointment to evaluate whether your pain has lessened and if you can wean yourself off the prescription.
As a supplement to medical treatment, you can also take steps to treat your body -- and therefore, your mind -- well. The key to that is to prioritize yourself. Don’t shun your loved ones’ problems, but make peace with the fact that you have been diagnosed with a disease that kills millions of people, and there’s only so much stress you can shoulder. At the same time, try to maintain your normal routine so you don’t let cancer hold you hostage or jar you off course. People have also found solace in these coping strategies.
People with a debilitating illness often express the sensation of facing their mortality for the first time. That’s why many cancer patients seek spiritual counseling in tandem with medical consultation. Spirituality can be a way to attend to your social, physical, emotional, and psychological wholeness. This may include unplugging a smartphone that keeps pinging with new emails, figuring out who have been the most meaningful people in your life, or finding time to meditate and be grateful. Attending your chosen place of worship can bring you great comfort and peace, so continue that practice as you are able.
If you are diagnosed with cancer, it’s imperative that you make appointments with a medical team to care for you through your prognosis. But, beyond that, it’s also important to care for yourself. Do whatever you can to soothe and restore your overall wellness -- including both your body and spirit -- so you have the strength to get healthy again.
Jason Lewis is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell.org to share his tips on senior fitness. In 2002 he became the primary caretaker for his mother after her surgery. From then on, he made it his advocacy to help fellow caregivers in ensuring wellness for seniors.
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