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Living with cancer

Living with cancer doesn’t have to be a downhill struggle. A positive attitude and changes in behavior aimed at reducing anxiety and depression can improve the quality of life for some people with cancer.

Your frame of mind

The first step is to stop blaming yourself for your cancer. The negative energy you use in regretting actions or harboring negative emotions is drawing your focus away from your number one concern: being strong and living life.

The sooner you return to normal daily activities (with your healthcare provider’s approval), the sooner you’ll gain a sense of control. Going to work, fulfilling social commitments and exercising may help reduce the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness many cancer patients experience.

Listen to your body

Managing the physical aspects of cancer is an important part of maintaining optimal well-being.

Fatigue. Exhaustion is the most common complaint among people being treated for cancer. How can you fight fatigue? First, recognize your limits. Then, make time for things that matter to you by cutting back on social obligations and avoiding unnecessary stress. Conserve energy by delegating tasks to those who offer help.

Pain. At least half of all cancer patients experience severe pain. When surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy can’t alleviate cancer pain, pain-relieving drugs are used.

Nutrition. Studies show that patients who eat well during cancer treatment have fewer infections and are able to remain more active. Unfortunately, both cancer and its treatment may reduce your appetite. If you’re unable to eat three large meals, keep a supply of nutritious snacks nearby so you can eat small amounts throughout the day. Protein-rich foods are particularly important because the body uses protein to repair and build tissues.

Exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about involving some physical activity into your daily routine. One study found that cancer patients who exercised regularly by walking short periods on a treadmill were less likely to feel fatigued and less likely to feel depressed after six weeks.