Self-Care and Spiritual Wellness for Cancer Patients

Self-Care and Spiritual Wellness for Cancer Patients

When you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, the treatment plan becomes front and center: is it chemo, radiation, or both? What medications will you need? What side effects will result from the treatments? You’re bombarded with questions from all sides — doctors, family, friends, and anyone else with whom you share your diagnosis.

However, once you get down to the business of treating cancer at the physical level, it’s important not to neglect your self-care or spiritual wellness. Whether you’re actively treating your disease or in maintenance, setting aside time for self-care to ensure your social, emotional, and spiritual health is equally critical.

Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine encompasses the mind, body, spirit, and community by incorporating therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines. It combines treatments and technologies with other therapies — from a variety of cultures old and new — and is centered around a model of health and wellness rather than one of disease.

Many of these therapies have been proven to help people with cancer. It’s worth exploring the options to see which may work for you — not to cure your cancer, but to ensure you’re not neglecting your mind, spirit, and soul.

It’s worth noting that at this time, you should be especially vigilant in confirming what your health insurance will cover for treatment and therapies associated with your diagnosis. For seniors, your prescription coverage may be limited depending on whether you have Original Medicare or private insurance. Note that Part D coverage through Medicare Advantage could provide you additional access to prescriptions that aren’t covered through original Medicare, so take notice of your policies, particularly if re-enrollment time is nearing. And remember, insurance can no longer deny you coverage or raise rates for a pre-existing condition.

Embracing Self-Care
Pay attention to your needs. Be aware of each moment and your needs in that moment. Take time to do something you love — an integral part of self-care. Talk to others about your feelings. Take a bubble bath, or spend the day outside relaxing under a tree.

Try meditating, which helps you to focus on the moment and find your inner strengths and resources that you can channel for healing, adapting, and growing. Meditation facilitates relaxation, peace and spirituality This ancient practice unifies the body and mind, stimulates your body’s natural healing processes and increases energy. There’s a wide variety yoga styles for cancer patients that can dovetail nicely with your mindfulness practice.

Consider getting a massage. Human touch can be a powerful weapon against pain and anxiety. Therapeutic massage, which is tailored to each person’s comfort level, has been shown to reduce nausea, pain, fatigue, and depression any may even improve your ability to sleep. Oncologists and general practitioners routinely recommend massage to cancer patients.

During this time, you also need to pay closer attention to what you eat. Making sure you create a healthy diet — and stick to it — will help boost your strength and provide your body with nutrients.

Emotional and Psychological Effects of Cancer
A cancer diagnosis starts you on a roller coaster ride of extreme peaks and valleys. Among the emotional and psychological effects you’ll experience are anger, grief, frustration, sadness, shock, disbelief, worry, and fear. Regaining that balance between your mind, body, spirit, and emotions becomes a daily struggle.

It’s important to maintain open lines of communication about your emotions with your doctor and your support system. According to CancerQuest, one of the best things you can do is learn about your cancer. When you arm yourself with information, you’ve made the disease less mysterious and frightening.

You may progress through a series of stages, including anxiety, depression, and uncertainty and negativity, each of which is valid. If you find yourself really struggling, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Seek solace in your place of worship. You should never feel ashamed about asking for help when you find yourself struggling.

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For more information:

Medicare part D:
Massage and cancer care:
Emotional effects of cancer:
CancerQuest, Emory University:
American Cancer Society:
Ten books about dealing with cancer: