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Coping & Adjusting After Treatment

The end of cancer treatment is a time of transition.

You may feel excited and relieved that treatment is over, but you might also be worried about the cancer coming back, unsure about the future, and wonder what is next.

People who have faced cancer often find that life does not return to the normal they knew before cancer, but to a “new normal”, which takes time to figure out.

A free six-week Cancer Transition program is available to help you get back to daily life. Family members may be able to attend. Please contact the following numbers for information:

Saskatoon: 306-655-2197 
Regina: 306-766-2213 (ask for the social worker who is facilitating the program)

Here are some suggestions to help you through this time:

  • The Supportive Care Services you had through your cancer treatments are still available to you after treatment. Also, keep talking about your concerns, feelings, worries and future with those you love.
  • Keep in touch with other patients you have met. You are experiencing similar things and they may understand how you are feeling.
  • Stay in touch with your support group. Even years after treatment it helps to stay in touch with those you met through this experience—see how others are coping and what life changes they may have made.
  • Continue writing in your journal, if you have one, or start one if you haven’t  already. Writing can be very therapeutic.

Nutrition After Treatment

Research shows that some cancers can be prevented by staying at a healthy weight.

Once you have recovered, talk to your doctor or community dietitian about what a healthy weight is for you.

Eating more fruits and vegetables can also improve your health and reduce your risk of disease. Try to eat at least five servings a day. Try putting 1/2 cup of berries on your cereal, cut up fresh vegetables for your lunch, choose a piece of fruit as a snack, or serve two different vegetables at dinner.

Weight

Staying at a healthy body weight can help prevent and control many diseases. There is also evidence that it may help lower your risk of cancer. It also helps you feel good about yourself and gives you more energy.

Body Mass Index is a measure of healthy body weight based on a person’s height and weight. Because it is easy to use, it is the most widely used tool to identify weight issues.

Alcohol

Research suggests there may be a connection between alcohol and cancer.

Experts recommend you limit your alcohol intake to half a drink per day, or less than three drinks per week, especially if you are overweight. A drink is defined as 5 oz of wine, 12 oz beer or 1.5 oz of hard alcohol.

Physical Activity After Treatment

Physical activity is encouraged for anyone who has had cancer. In fact, research suggests physical activity may play a role in preventing it from coming back. Exercise also improves your overall health.

An introduction to Physical Activity was outlined on the Managing My Health During Treatment page. Following active treatment, you level of activity should increase as you get your energy and strength back.

Our experts recommend following the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for cancer survivors:

  • The volume of weekly activity should include:
    • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or
    • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, or
    • an equivalent combination (e.g., 50 minutes of moderate + 50 minutes of vigorous), spread over at least three days a week.
  • Two to three weekly sessions of strength training that includes exercises for major muscle groups.
  • Stretch major muscle groups and tendons each time you exercise.

The American College of Sports Medicine recognizes that some cancer survivors may be unable to meet the recommendations due to health status. In such a case, the recommendation is to continue to be as physically active as abilities and conditions allow, recognizing that any activity is better than none.

Examples of moderate vs. vigorous activities:

Moderate activities
(I can talk while I do them, but I can’t sing)

  • Ballroom and line dancing
  • Biking on level ground or with a few hills
  • Canoeing
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Using your manual wheelchair
  • Using hand cyclers—also called ergometers
  • Walking briskly (as if you are late for an appointment)
  • Water aerobics

Vigorous activities
(I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath)

  • Aerobic dance
  • Biking faster than 16 km/h
  • Fast dancing
  • Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill
  • Jumping rope
  • Martial arts (such as karate)
  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
  • Swimming fast or swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)

Source: Schmitz et al. (2010). American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors. Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise 42(7), 1409-26.