Feel Better

Feeling good during treatment is possible. Check out our tips for diet, exercise, and socializing information.

Nutrition

Maintaining proper nutrition is important during cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society offers a free guide called Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment. This guide is designed to help the person with cancer learn more about nutritional needs, manage eating problems during treatment, and deal with side effects. It also provides tips on getting good nutrition and meal planning. It offers suggestions for healthy eating before, during, and after treatment, as well as guidelines for sanitation, food safety, and food handling. Recipes for nutritious snacks, drinks, and soups are also included. A downloadable version of the guide is available at www.cancer.org or you can get a free copy by calling 1-800-227-2345.

The National Cancer Institute (1-800-4-CANCER) offers a free booklet Eating Hints: Before, During, and After Cancer Treatment, with lots of information, tips, recipes, etc. A downloadable version of this guide is available here.

Cook for Your Life offers free, hand-on cooking programs to teach healthy cooking to people touched by cancer, turning nutrition guidelines into practical, easy recipes that are designed specifically for the different stages of treatment, and to promote healthy survivorship.  For more information, visit cookforyourlife.org, call 212-799-3894, or write to info@cfyl.org

Exercise & Fitness

During cancer treatment, your body is working overtime to fight cancer and also stay well. The right types of exercise can help increase energy, reduce stress, and offset potential weight gain. Being fit is about having fun, performing your regular daily activities, and enjoying sports and leisure activities.

  • Fitness includes cardio endurance, muscle strength, and joint flexibility. Walking, hiking, playing soccer or basketball, swimming, biking, and other types of aerobic exercises contribute to fitness.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your exercise capacity decreases during treatment. This is normal and expected.
  • Pace yourself. Start off slowly, and increase the duration of exercise as you are able. Don’t overdo it. Listen to your body, and rest as needed.
  • Set reasonable goals for yourself. Talk to your cancer care team about what you can safely do.
  • Keep notes on your progress. Over time, you’ll see and feel the improvement!
  • Exercising with a partner can help keep you motivated and encouraged.
  • Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about physical activity and any possible limitations you need to keep in mind.
  • If your platelet count is low, avoid contact sports and activities like skate-boarding, mountain biking, horseback riding, and weightlifting until you and your parents have talked with your doctor.
  • It’s generally recommended you drink at least 6 to 8 tall glasses of water each day. Even more fluid may be needed during treatment. Talk to your team about how much fluid you need each day.
Social Life

Friends: Your relationships with your friends may be affected by cancer, too. Your friends may feel awkward around you and not know what to say or do. They may have questions about whether cancer is contagious, or about appearance-related side effects such as hair loss. Be positive and honest with your friends. Assure them that you’re not contagious, and, yes, your hair will grow back! Some kids will probably shy away from you, but your real friends will stay that way, no matter what.

Relationships: Whether you’re dating or not, you’ll be thinking about it soon. Relationships are exciting, confusing, wonderful, and complicated. Just remember a couple of things. Remember to practice safe sex, or better still, choose not to have sex at all. If you are sexually active, you must take the same healthy safe-sex precautions as everyone else. In fact, they’re extra important during treatment. Protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Remember, your risk for infection is higher during treatment, and even “mild” infections can be dangerous during this time. It’s also very important to not get pregnant or get someone pregnant while getting cancer treatment. Many treatments can cause damage to sperm cells and/or a growing baby.

Before you begin or continue a sexually active relationship, talk to your parents, doctor, nurse, or social worker. This may not be easy, but you need to be sure sex is safe for you while you’re getting cancer treatment.

social-life

Unwind: It’s important to find a way to relieve stress. Exercise is a great way to do that. Massage therapy is also a popular way to reduce stress. Relaxing your muscles can relax your mind as well. Other techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation may also be helpful. Journaling, or writing down your thoughts and feelings (electronic or hard copy!), is another way that you can care for yourself.  It provides you an opportunity to work out your feelings and emotions, which may help you relax and feel more hopeful about the future. Discuss these options with your parents and your cancer care team.

Tobacco: For starters, smoking is a killer! It’s also expensive, causes bad breath, and causes smelly clothes and hair. Your body is under enough stress. Don’t add to it by smoking or using smokeless tobacco. Any form of tobacco is nasty and bad for you. Still, if you do use tobacco, e-cigarettes, hookah, chew, or anything like this, talk to your cancer care team. Make sure it won’t interfere with your treatment and get help to stop.

Drugs: You’re already doing drugs – chemotherapy drugs, and your kidneys and liver are working very hard to handle them. Alcohol and other drugs can interfere with your treatment and add further stress to your organs. The use of drugs and alcohol can affect how your treatment works and can cause you further harm. Again, be sure your cancer care team knows about what you use and can help you manage it.

Tattoos & Body Piercing: Remember, you’re at an increased risk for infection. Why chance it now? If you still think it’s something you want to do, it’s important that you talk it over with your cancer care team first.

Music & Dancing: By all means, continue to enjoy them! Dancing is great exercise, but be careful in crowds.

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