Be kind to yourself through treatment

Support services at the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland

With your body going through so much, it’s easy to forget to nurture your soul. But taking care of your psychological health is a critical part of coping with chemotherapy.

Finding ways to reduce stress, keep your spirits up and enjoy life – even at such a challenging time – can help ward off depression and anxiety, and ease pain. Here are some suggestions you might find useful.

1. Accept help

Your body needs rest during chemo, so don’t hesitate to ask family and friends for assistance with child care, meals, transport or ironing – they really want to help you and feel useful.

2. Join a support group 

It can be comforting to talk with others who are going through – or have already completed – treatment. In addition to venting your fears and frustrations, you may glean some words of wisdom and learn from each other.

3. Call friends

Not everyone likes to share their personal experiences with a group. So put your own private support team on speed dial.

4. Set priorities

You may not be able to keep up with all your usual commitments, so prioritise the most important ones. Keep in mind, cancer survivors often have different priorities such as spending more time with family and friends.

5. Consider changing your work schedule 

Share your treatment schedule with your boss. If fatigue or other symptoms are interfering with your ability to work, ask about taking time off or working part-time from home. Many work places are very supportive and will allow you to work around your treatment.

6. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do everything

Plan as best you can, but be prepared to cancel – or delay – a scheduled activity if you aren’t feeling up to it. Remember, your top priority is to get well.

7. Visualise getting better

Imagine your cancer cells disappearing and your body growing healthier and stronger. This optimistic outlook can ease stress and help keep you going when you have a bad day.

8. Keep a journal

Write down anything that makes you happy – a joke, a random act of kindness, a cute thing your child said. When you’re feeling down, turn to your journal for a quick mood boost.

9. Read inspirational books

Books such as Chicken Soup for the Cancer Survivor’s Soul show you there’s always hope, no matter how bad the chemo makes you feel.  A day will come when the treatment will be finished, and you can get on with your life.

10. Laugh every day

Laughter can help ill people boost their mood, and ease stress and anxiety. So watch a funny movie or horse around in the backyard with the kids – and laugh!

11. Crank up your favourite tunes

Turn on some music you love and dance.

12. Make time for exercise

Exercise is essential since it can help fight fatigue, nausea, pain and depression – and improve your quality of life. Why not join up for our Fit to Thrive 12-week exercise program to get you started. Call 1800 620 420 for more information.

13. Check out wigs, scarves, hats or turbans

If losing your hair will upset you, consider a beautiful head covering. If you’re thinking about getting a wig, consider doing it before your hair falls out so it can be matched to your colour and style.

14. Indulge in a makeover

If treatments are making you unhappy with your appearance, consider getting a makeover. You can attend the Look Good…Feel Better program which runs workshops to help boost the confidence and wellbeing of women, men and teens undergoing cancer treatment. Call us on 1800 620 420 for more information.

15. Try something new

Maybe this is the time to try a new activity such as crocheting, scrapbooking, painting or tai chi.

16. Relax

Give yourself permission to be a couch potato sometimes. Take breaks and rest when you feel tired and weak. Be patient with yourself as you cope.

17. Give yourself permission to feel sad, angry – or both 

Expect a bad day every now and then. Don’t force yourself to be upbeat all the time, but if you’re always depressed or anxious, speak to your doctor.

18. Celebrate your successes

At the end of each chemo cycle, treat yourself to something special, perhaps a meal from a favourite restaurant, a new pair of shoes or even a long soak in the tub. You deserve it!

This article was also published in Amyloidosis News, our free publication for anyone affected by amyloidosis. You can download Amyloidosis News from our website, or subscribe to get it sent straight to your inbox or letterbox. This content has been adapted from Guide2chemo 2011.

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