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Self-care for Cancer Patients

(The second in a two-post series, Taking Control of Life With Cancer)

Since being diagnosed, do you feel as though someone else is in the driver’s seat?

Consider these ways you can take hold of the steering wheel while living with cancer:

  • Work with the present moment, rather than against it. Care for your mind and body as they are right now. At this moment, what can you do to bring yourself peace? Right now, what can you to help your body heal? Take a nap. Indulge in a hot bath. Grab a beer and sit on the front porch. Kick back to your favorite music. Treat your taste buds to some soul food.

  • Try to maintain as normal a routine as possible.

  • Carry a small notebook with you and make lists.

  • Knowledge is power. Be an active participant in your health care. Ask your team to help identify educational materials about your type and stage of cancer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take notes at medical visits. If you don’t understand something, ask your doctor to explain it.

  • Be willing to make changes in your lifestyle before, during and after treatment. You may need to take a close look at your work habits, physical activity, diet, sleep patterns, and how you spend your free time.

  • Allow yourself to feel fully the emotions you encounter on this journey. All emotions—even the uncomfortable ones—are valid.

  • Learn to manage stress. Cultivate tools such as meditation or breathing and relaxation exercises.

  • Have hope. You may find hope in nature, or your religious or spiritual practices.

  • Plan something special for the future. This process will help take your mind off cancer and keep you focused on something fun and rewarding.


Chodron, P. (2002). Comfortable with uncertainty: 108 teachings on cultivating fearlessness and compassion. Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications.

Friedman, D. S. (2014). Zen cancer wisdom: Tips for making each day better. Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA.

National Cancer Institute. (2014). Taking time: Support for people with cancer. (NIH Publication No. 14-2059). Retrieved from, October 9, 2017.

Singh, R., Wilczynska-Kwiatek, A., Fedacko J., Pella, D., DeMeester, F. (2009). Pranayama: The power of breath. International Journal on Disability and Human Development, 8(2), 141-153. doi: 10.1515/IJDHD.2009.8.2.141

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