You’re so freaking tired. You’re afraid of every weird pain wondering if it might be the cancer back again. So much anxiety! Add to that, your friends and family are expecting you to be back to normal now that the treatment is over. But you are not back to normal. You’re pretty sure you will never be normal again.
Cancer can derail your life in the most fundamental ways. You may be immobilized by the now seemingly naïve assumption that you would live to old age. Add to that the grief and longing for how life used to be with your body, your relationships, your income! Oh, the money stress alone (getting cancer is so flipping expensive even if you do have good health insurance. For me, I had four years of deductibles and co-pays. Even though my insurance never denied a claim, my portion still put me $40,000 in debt).
So basically all of the security we once felt in life is rocked. That takes a huge emotional toll while you are dealing with the very real physical toll that the treatment has had on your body.
How do you begin building yourself up again after being knocked down so hard? It’s easy and tempting to languish on the couch for hours (days?), paralyzed by it all. I get it. I was there. I’m there still, sometimes. Here are my First 3 Steps from a health coach and double cancer survivor perspective.
It may sound obvious to get rest but many people don’t sleep well after treatment. The medications may be interfering and the stress and anxiety may be keeping your mind spinning to the point of insomnia.
Sleep is arguably the most important healing activity we can do. I suggest sleeping as much as your body seems to need. That means taking naps when you’re tired, and waking without an alarm. If you have to get up to go to work at a certain time, be sure to go to bed early to get ample sleep.
After the treatments for my two cancers, I slept 9 to 10 hours a night. Here’s why it’s so important: your body does its healing work while in the deep sleep state. Sleep also helps with anxiety and fear by returning the stress hormones back to normal.
Read my previous blog posts on sleep for suggestions on getting to sleep more easily if you struggle with it. I also spend an entire session on sleep in The Permanent Remission Project online group coaching program.
2. Stay in Gratitude
This may also sound simple but how many of us actually stay grateful? We may have momentary thoughts of “I am so glad I survived,” but how many of us feel the enormity of that gratitude on a continual basis. Are you grateful while you’re watching your daughter’s soccer match–grateful to be witnessing her joy? Are you grateful when you’re cooking dinner–grateful to spend that quality time with family or friends over a meal?
If you truly live in gratitude during life’s most mundane events, you may be brought to tears at the beauty of life. After cancer, life is precious. Life is beautiful. If we stay fully present to that beauty, there is no space in our heads for the struggle or worry that can take over in recovery. There is no space for complaining. Gratitude doesn’t make the physical pain go away, but it makes it easier to manage.
3. Eat plants
I have written lots of posts about how to eat and drink post cancer, foods to avoid and foods to add. The first thing I want you to focus on in the food department is adding in lots of vegetables. This is the concept of “crowding out”. We want to add in so many nutrient dense foods, feeding your cells the antioxidants your body needs to restore itself from treatment, that you don’t have space left in your appetite for foods that hinder your healing.
Start with dark green foods. Spinach, kale, chard, collards, spirulina, chlorella, blue green algae all have super powers of detoxing residual chemicals from your body from chemotherapy as well as feeding your cells vital nutrients. Dark green foods also boost your immune system, which is top priority post treatment.
After adding in piles and piles of green foods, move on to the other colors of the rainbow. Eat a colorful plate at each and every meal. We tend to eat a lot of white and brown in the typical American diet. Focus on adding in a wide variety of colorful foods for the best recovery from cancer.
Bonus tip: Get support.
It can feel very lonely after treatment is over. It’s nice to hang out with people who get it. People who have ridden that roller coaster and can give you some pointers on when it will end and how to get off of it. We offer that support in The Permanent Remission Project. It is an online group coaching program designed to create community support while guiding you to establish healthy routines in your life that will facilitate permanent remission. We are creating the most inhospitable environment for cancer possible in body, mind and spirit. Join us!