How to Live a Healthy Life After Cancer
If you talk with a cancer survivor, you might hear them say that they view their life in three different stages: life before diagnosis, life during treatment, and life after cancer. And while cancer is certainly no walk in the park, there might be a positive worth shedding light on, which is that cancer survivors tend to value and appreciate their health more than those who have never been seriously ill.
Oftentimes, this outlook is what causes survivors to put extra focus on making healthier lifestyle choices that can reduce the likelihood of getting cancer again—or any other serious illness for that matter.
Lifestyle Choices Can Influence Your Health
What you might not realize is that the steps for living a healthy lifestyle as a cancer survivor are essentially the same steps that anyone can take to improve their well-being—serious illness or not. Wise lifestyle choices can include:
- Exercising regularly. Staying physically active can give a major physical and mental boost. Even low-impact activities, such as walking, can influence your present and future health for the better.
- Eating healthier foods. “You are what you eat” is a well-known saying for a reason. Unlike processed, packaged, and high-sugar foods that have been proven to contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and unhealthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels, a diet rich with healthy foods (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins) will leave you healthier.
- Ceasing tobacco use. Time and time again, it has been proven that smoking and chewing tobacco are harmful to your health. Tobacco or vaping simply don’t fit into a healthy lifestyle.
- Watching alcohol consumption. Overindulging in alcohol isn’t healthy for anyone. So, if you do choose to drink, do so in moderation. According to the American Cancer Society, women should limit themselves to no more than one drink per day, and no more than two for men.
- Limiting sun exposure. Long-term and/or excessive sun exposure is known to cause skin cancer. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to stay inside during the heat of the day (between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm) when the sun’s rays are strongest. It’s also a good idea to cover your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 that shields out both UVA and UVB rays.
- Take your prescription medication. If you have been prescribed medicine, it is important that you take it as directed and refill your prescriptions in a timely fashion. Even if you “feel fine,” it is never wise to discontinue a prescription medication without getting an approval from your doctor.
- Visiting your doctor for regular checkups. We encourage you to see your doctor as soon as possible if you become ill or have concerning symptoms. The sooner the cause is detected and diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin.
- Show up for your regular cancer screening schedules. Beating cancer doesn’t mean you should stop getting screened. Staying faithful to appointments can help catch any issues like a recurrence or a new type of cancer, making it possible to treat it sooner.
Cancer Survivors Need Healthy Habits
While anyone can benefit from living a healthier lifestyle, it is especially critical for cancer survivors. According to the American Cancer Society, survivors of many cancers, such as breast cancer and skin cancer, are at an increased risk of developing a second cancer or having a cancer recurrence.
Many cancer survivors come to realize that leading a healthy lifestyle after cancer takes work— but by being diligent in creating healthier routines, it can be done. If your pre-cancer life involved unhealthy habits, such as being physically inactive, frequently eating fast food, consuming too much alcohol, working to maintain your tan, etc. now, more than ever, is the time to incorporate change. As a survivor, you’ve entered that third stage of life that can (and should) be the beginning of a new, healthier you.
As you transition to a healthier lifestyle, be sure to remember that you don’t have to do it alone! Talking with other survivors at a support group or asking family and friends for their help are great ways to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable for the choices you make regarding your health. Not only is that good for you, but they’ll also benefit from it, too!