Getting a cancer diagnosis is a lot to handle. If you’ve been diagnosed, remember that as you work with your oncologist and care team on your treatment plan, it’s important to take care of yourself in other ways, too. You are a whole person and not just a cancer diagnosis. Taking care of yourself is good for your overall well-being and may support your strength and wellness during your cancer journey.
This article offers some ideas about caring for yourself during cancer treatment that may help some people. Your medical/surgical oncology team should coordinate your cancer treatment. Please consult them before making any significant diet changes or undergoing new therapies.
Eat Well for Well-being
Nutrition is important to keep your body strong and healthy during your cancer treatment. It may be difficult to eat due to digestive upset, nausea, and a lack of or change in taste during treatments such as chemotherapy. Shakes, soups and stews are easy to digest and can provide a lot of nourishment. It can be hard to find the energy to cook, so making large batches of soups and shakes and then freezing them down into individual portions can make it easy to eat well on the days you’re feeling fatigued.
Sense of taste can change for some people during oncology treatment as well. Some say they experience a bitter or bland taste in their mouth and many say they can only taste sweet flavors. This change of taste paired with nausea can make it difficult to eat. And eating only sweets is tasty but doesn’t give you the nourishment you need. There are tablets that contain a natural fruit called Miracle Berry or Miracle Fruit that may be helpful for taste. Miracle Berry is a small red fruit that grows in tropical areas. This incredible fruit may make foods taste sweet and may make it easier for you to eat. These fruit tablets may even make sour and tart foods taste sweet!
Trying Natural Ways to Cope with Nausea
Nausea is a side effect experienced by many as they undergo chemotherapy. Smelling essential oils like peppermint or ginger, or sipping on mint or ginger herbal tea may have a calming effect on the stomach. Some people may also benefit from a natural acupressure wrist band, which applies gentle pressure to an acupuncture point on the wrist.
Get Moving to Fight Fatigue
Fatigue, joint pain and numbness or burning of the hands and feet can also be common side effects of oncology treatment. Gentle movement may help combat these symptoms and help you to feel less fatigued. Even just a few minutes of gentle activity can be helpful. Consider taking a walk, a bicycle ride or adding gentle stretching into your daily routine. Research studies suggest that time spent in nature or the outdoors can help support our immune systems, so that’s another great reason to get outside when you can.
Find Ways to Manage Stress
It can be stressful as you embark on your oncology journey. Finding ways to manage stress is important for your overall well-being, mood and immune system. Stress can have many negative effects on health and may affect our immune system by altering hormones in our bodies. There are many natural and simple ways to help manage stress. Deep breathing exercises and smelling of essential oils may be helpful. Your oncology support team may also have resources available to help you manage stress.
Calling and talking with friends and family can help you feel supported, which may help with stress, too. Laughter also has positive effects on our well-being and may help with stress reduction. It calms the body’s stress responses and may increase blood flow throughout your body, which can support your overall health. Watching a funny movie or a chat with an old friend can get you laughing and can lift your mood while supporting your overall well-being.
Stay Hydrated to Sooth Dryness
Some people undergoing cancer treatment experience dry mouth, dry skin, dry hair, dry eyes, and sensitivity or discomfort of skin. Staying hydrated is important, but it may be difficult to do during this time due to nausea and/or lack of appetite. When it’s difficult to drink water, try to mix it up. Add fresh fruit to your water to enhance the flavor, try drinking caffeine-free herbal teas, and eat fruits with high water content, such as watermelon. There are many products for dry mouth and dry eyes that can be soothing. There are also natural-based products for skin sensitivity and may be helpful for irritation from radiation.
Consider Auricular Therapy
Auricular therapy is a part of acupuncture that involves needling and/or applying acupressure seeds to the ear. The ear seeds are tiny, nonmetal balls that are applied to the ear at specific points to apply acupressure. They are held in place with surgical tape and are quick and painless to apply. When applied before cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, the ear seeds may help reduce treatment side effects, such as fatigue, in some people. They may also help the body de-stress by releasing endorphins, which are our “feel good” hormones. Ear seeds can be applied by themselves or used in conjunction with needling of the ear or whole body acupuncture.
At the ProMedica Natural Wellness Shop, auricular therapy is performed by a practitioner trained and licensed in acupuncture. Our licensed practitioner would conduct a consult with you to identify your goals and evaluate whether auricular therapy is right for you.
Learn more about the basics of auricular therapy in this video:
Everyone’s cancer journey is different. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, I hope some of these options help support you during your cancer journey.
Kylie A. Study, M.Sc, MSTOM, Dipl.OM is a licensed acupuncturist and natural wellness practitioner at the ProMedica Natural Wellness Shop in Sylvania, Ohio.