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Coping & Adjusting During Treatment

Too tired?

A drop-in education session on cancer-related fatigue for patients and their families and caregivers. Fatigue (tiredness) is the most common side effect of cancer patients, but there is help. Learn what you can do to help reduce your fatigue and feel better. 

Saskatoon: 306-655-2305
Regina: 306-766-2213

There is a series of fatigue modules on the SCA website that you may find helpful.

Distress levels

It is normal for patients and families to be upset or anxious during their cancer journey. You may find any number of things cause distress, including emotional, social, informational, spiritual, practical, and/or physical concerns. However, identifying what causes your distress and understanding if and when to get help may be harder than you expected. The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency may screen for distress. More information can be found here.

Nutrition During Treatment

Good nutrition can help you feel better and keep up your energy level during treatment

Problems such as poor appetite, weight loss, nausea, taste changes and trouble swallowing are common during treatment. The goal of nutrition is to maintain weight and strength.

Treatment and recovery
If eating less than usual or if losing weight, focus on high-calorie, high protein foods such as:

  • pasta with meat or cream sauce
  • stews and chili
  • lentil and cream soups
  • yogurt and pudding
  • cheese and nut butters

It is often easier to have smaller meals and snacks more often (every 2-3 hours), rather than two or three large meals a day.

Nutritional supplements such as Boost Plus® or Ensure Plus® can be used on their own or in smoothies and milkshakes to increase your nutrition.

Make sure to drink enough fluids. Most people need two to three litres a day. This includes:

  • water  
  • milk
  • juice  
  • hot chocolate
  • ginger ale 
  • popsicles
  • herbal teas 
  • soup
  • sports drinks

Special diets may make it hard to eat all of the right foods. If you have questions about your diet or nutrition during your cancer treatment, speak with your cancer centre dietitian or go to a nutrition class to learn more.

Physical Activity During Treatment

Exercise improves your overall health and can help cancer patients, even during treatment

Dr. Kerry Courneya, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Cancer at the University of Alberta, has found that exercise can help people receiving chemotherapy be more physically fit, reach or stay at a healthy weight and feel better about themselves.

Activities such as walking, stretching and weight training decrease some side-effects of cancer treatment, like fatigue, constipation, and nausea.

Most Oncologists now encourage physical activity, both during and after treatment, thanks in part to research conducted by Calgary-based Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Friedenreich, whose work focuses on the role of physical activity in cancer prevention, rehabilitation and survival.

Check with your doctor for your individual physical activity recommendations during treatment.

Any type of physical activity counts - be active throughout the day whenever you can

  • Park further away from work or the mall
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Ride your bike to the video store
  • Stretch throughout the day to increase flexibility

Exercise improves your overall health

  • Improves how well your heart works
  • Improves muscle strength, which improves balance
  • Helps control blood pressure
  • Helps keep your bones and joints healthy
  • Improves flexibility

Exercise helps you relieve stress

Research has found that regular exercise actually reduces stress and anxiety, along with helping you get your mind off your cancer.

Exercise improves your energy level

Exercise can decrease symptoms of tiredness and give you more energy. Exercise helps your red blood cells (cells that carry oxygen through your body), work better. When you exercise, you are increasing the ability of the body to use oxygen in the blood. This helps your body use oxygen more effectively, and helps you feel more energized.

Exercise helps improve your immune system

Recent research has shown that physical activity can improve survival after breast and colon cancers. This includes the research that has been done by Drs. Freidenreich and Courneya. Initial findings suggest that exercise can improve the immune system.

Exercise helps you feel good about yourself.

Dr. Courneya and Dr. John Mackey from the University of Alberta have studied the effects of exercise on breast cancer patients and reported that those who exercised were happier than those who did not.

The recommended goal:

During treatment, your recommended goal for physical activity will depend on your treatment and ability. Start as low as needed in terms of intensity (e.g. slow walking) and duration (even 5-10 minutes) and then build up gradually.

Adding any type of exercise, like brisk walking, will give you health benefits. Begin by identifying the types of activity you enjoy. If you don’t have a favorite exercise, start with walking.

Setting “S-M-A-R-T” goals:

Research has shown that setting goals will help you start and stay with a new exercise program. Setting goals will also help you monitor progress. Use the S-M-A-R-T guidelines when setting goals and remember during treatment to start slow and build up gradually.

S     Specific: decide exactly what you are going to do and how
M     Measurable: measure your progress
A     Attainable: set a goal that is within your reach
R     Realistic: set a goal that is realistic, relevant, and rewarding
T     Time frame: set a time frame and give yourself enough time to reach your goal

Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

Reward yourself

Remember to reward yourself when you have reached a goal. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like taking a long bath, getting that book you’ve been wanting to read, or buying a new pair of runners.