New Year’s resolutions are tricky. It’s hard to break old habits and start new ones—so when you don’t have a strategy, lofty resolutions often end up falling flat. If you’re living with cancer and are trying to live healthier in the New Year, check out our suggestions below, and remember, if you’re considering making major changes to your exercise or eating habits, consult with your health care team first.
Move more—even if it’s just a little bit each day. If you’re like a ton of other people out there (myself included) you’ve probably made a resolution at some point to exercise more. This one can sound really fun at first, until you: a) realize you don’t really have a strategy for how to actually do this b) remember how cold it is outside in the beginning of the year or c) were only half serious when you announced that this was your New Year’s resolution anyway.
Sadly, there’s a reason why gym memberships all go on sale in January but aren’t as hyped up a few months later in April. And if you have cancer, keeping your resolution to be more active can be even more of a challenge. However, you can still make a resolution to be more active without feeling ashamed by February (or the second week of January) for not sticking to your new fitness plan.
Even if it’s just 5 minutes a day, try to take some time to move more—even if it’s just taking a short walk outside with a family member or friend. If you live near a Cancer Support Community affiliate, take a look at their schedule of classes to see if one might fit your schedule. Physical activity can help you build energy, reduce depression and anxiety and improve your overall quality of life.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any sort of exercise program. Your health care team can help you determine what precautions to take when exercising and give suggestions for exercises that are right for you.
Eat better. Eating well when you have cancer can be a challenge for a lot of reasons. Finding the time to grocery shop and prepare a meal can be exhausting, and your treatment may be making you feel like you don’t even want to eat anyway.
If you don’t have much of an appetite, try eating several smaller meals during the day instead of three large ones. If you’re feeling nauseous, try to track times, foods, smells or events that seem to trigger your nausea and make accommodations accordingly. It may also be helpful to have crackers or ginger tea on hand, and to avoid foods that are spicy, fatty or overly sweet.
If finding time is the issue, don’t be afraid to ask others for help in putting meals together. There may be quite a few people in your life who want to help you out but just don’t know how. Ask someone to help organize a meal calendar for you so that your friends, neighbors or coworkers can help you out with home-cooked meals. Free tools like Meal Train even help you coordinate a schedule of who is bringing what so that you can be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need (and so that you don’t end up with a refrigerator full of just lasagna!)
Feel more confident at your next doctors’ appointment. How many times have you gone to a doctor’s appointment, only to come home confused, a little frustrated and left with tons of unanswered questions? It’s not just you—patient-physician communication is a big topic in health care today, and one of the Cancer Support Community’s resources, called Open to Options, is a great resource that can help you organize your questions and concerns beforehand so that you have a productive appointment.
If you give our Cancer Support Helpline a call (that’s 888-793-9355, by the way) you can set up an over-the-phone appointment with a trained call center professional. He or she will help you walk through your questions and concerns and organize them into a typed list for you—perfect for bringing along to your next appointment. This service is also available face-to-face at many of our affiliates across North America—and of course, it is free of charge.
You may also find it helpful to have a second set of ears at your next doctors’ appointment. Consider bringing along a family member or a close friend so that they can take notes for you while you listen.
Have something to look forward to. Is there a special event in the year ahead (graduation, wedding, reunion, etc.) that is important to you? Thinking about and planning for the future helps us to find hope and feel motivated in our everyday lives. Take a moment to write down your goals or dreams for the year ahead. The very act of writing things down can be therapeutic itself.
In addition to the tips in this blog post, check out our Living Healthy With Cancer fact sheet with information on eating right, staying active, preventing infection and managing your care, and listen to our internet radio show for information each week on how to live well with cancer.
Do you have any resolutions for 2013? What is motivating you to live healthier in the New Year?