7 ways to be kind to yourself during breast cancer treatment

Pip Bell, a breast cancer nurse with the McGrath Foundation, says it’s important women with breast cancer are kind to themselves. She’s put together some ideas of simple things they can do each day to help.

Take time out

Breast cancer can be a traumatic experience so it’s important to take time out. This may include long walks or breaks away with a loved one, listening to music, having a beauty treatment, or spending time alone with a special friend. 

Sometimes women need time to themselves before they feel ready to share their feelings with others. Taking care of yourself and doing things that you enjoy is not being selfish, it’s vital to reduce stress levels to help cope and heal.

Don’t take on too much

Don’t take on too much during the recovery stage after surgery or during active treatments. You need to allow time to heal and recover without being exposed to added stress.

Eat a healthy diet

Taking care of your physical health can help boost your feelings of wellbeing and your mood. I suggest people try not to gain too much weight and for some people it’s a good idea to see a dietitian. Where possible try to maintain regular exercise – it’s important for maintaining bone health. Also, be kind to your body by not smoking.

Try to build something relaxing and enjoyable into each day

Develop your own ritual of building something that makes you feel good into every day. It’s important to have something to look forward to that helps you feel centred, relaxed and happy. Spend time with uplifting people, not people who are going to make you walk away feeling feel down or depressed. There are so many things you have to do when undergoing treatment for cancer so it’s important to make time for something you want to do.

Develop a good sleeping routine

Sleep is an important part of physical and mental health. While we are asleep, the brain and body undergo functions to help us stay in good health. It is common for people to have trouble sleeping during or after cancer treatments.

Emotional distress is usually the main reason cancer patients don’t sleep well. If you think of the toll that a cancer diagnosis alone has, it’s no wonder cancer patients suffer from sleepless nights. Uncertainty and fears about the future, along with confronting the big decisions about treatment, creates stress that can disturb sleep. A good night’s sleep has benefits for people undergoing cancer treatments who need as much vitality and energy as possible to fight their cancer.

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and stimulus control, which involves limiting time awake in bed and viewing the bed only as a place for sleep can be helpful.

Sleep hygiene, such as avoiding heavy meals and television before bed, and going to bed at the same time every night can also be beneficial.

Talk to the people who support you

Speaking openly with those who support you is vital. Many women undergoing treatment for breast cancer keep their feelings to themselves because they don’t want to be a burden. However, it is valuable for patients to have a good support person who they can trust and who will listen without judging and interfering; someone who is willing to be there when needed. Having someone to release and share your feelings with can ensure you don’t feel alone and isolated. Some people choose family members, while others prefer support lines or support groups.  

Attend all medical appointments

It’s important for people undergoing treatment or recovering from breast cancer to give priority to attending all scheduled medical appointments. It’s also important they keep in close contact with their GP if treatment side-effects cause concern and prevent good compliance; your GP can help you understand the signs and symptoms that need urgent medical attention. Make sure that you carry out your annual mammogram, ultrasound and blood tests that the doctors have advised you to do in the future. 

At Bupa, we’ve teamed up with the McGrath Foundation to support breast cancer awareness and the work of McGrath Breast Care Nurses

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