If you’ve been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), taking proper care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do. Having support from your loved ones is important, but with time I’ve learned that being kind to myself is just as important for managing the condition and enjoying a good quality of life.
Self-care differs from person to person, but here are eight things that really help me each day.
1. Take care of your hair
No, it isn’t shallow. I have lost my hair twice since my diagnosis. Being bald announces to the world that you have cancer. You have no choice.
I still do chemo, but it’s not the kind that causes my hair to fall out. After my mastectomy and liver surgeries, I found it difficult to hold my arms up long enough to blow dry my hair, which is the only way I can control it (I have long, very thick, and curly hair). So, I treat myself to a weekly wash and blowout with my stylist.
It’s your hair. Take care of it however you want! Even if that means treating yourself to a blowout every so often.
2. Go outside
Having cancer can be overwhelming and horrifying. For me, going for a walk outside helps in a way nothing else can. Listening to the birds and sounds of the river, looking up at the clouds and sun, smelling the raindrops on the pavement — it’s all very peaceful.
Being out in nature can help center you. The path we are on is part of the natural order of things.
3. Invest in a cleaning service
Cancer treatment can cause anemia, which will leave you feeling very fatigued. Treatment can also make your white blood cell count drop, which puts you at a higher risk of getting infections.
Feeling fatigued and being at a higher risk of getting infections may have you feeling concerned about cleaning a dirty bathroom floor. Also, who wants to spend precious time scrubbing the bathroom floor?
Investing in a monthly cleaning service or getting a housekeeper can solve a lot of problems.
4. Learn your limitations
After nine years of treatment, I’m no longer able to do some of the things I used to be able to do. I can go to a movie, but not dinner and a movie. I can go out to lunch, but not go out to lunch and shop. I have to limit myself to one activity a day. If I overdo it, I’ll pay for it with nausea and a headache that can go on for days. Sometimes I won’t be able to get out of bed.
Learn your limitations, accept them, and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s not your fault. Also, make sure your loved ones are aware of your limitations as well. This can make social situations easier for you in case you’re not feeling up to it or need to leave early.
5. Find hobbies
Hobbies are a great way to get your mind off of things when you’re feeling down. One of the hardest things about needing to leave my job was having nothing to focus on other than my condition.
Sitting at home and thinking about your illness is not good for you. Dabbling in different hobbies, or devoting your time to one that you really love, can help you feel better.
Take up something as simple as coloring. Or maybe try your hand at scrapbooking! If there is something you want to learn how to do, now is a great time to start. Who knows? You may even make a new friend along the way.
6. Help others
Helping others is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. While cancer may place physical limitations on you, your mind is still strong and capable.
If you enjoy knitting, maybe knit a blanket for a child with cancer or a patient in a hospital. There are also charities that can connect you with newly diagnosed cancer patients so that you can send them letters and help them through the treatment process. If you’re able, you can volunteer for an organization like the American Cancer Society or even make dog biscuits for a local animal shelter.
Wherever your heart takes you, there’s somebody in need. Be mindful of your own health (go home if you hear sniffles!), but there’s no reason why you can’t help others.
7. Accept your condition
Cancer happens, and it happened to you. You didn’t ask for this, nor did you cause it, but you do have to accept it. Maybe you can’t make it to that wedding across the country. Perhaps you’ll have to quit a job that you love. Accept it, and move on. It’s the only way to make peace with your condition and find happiness with the things you can do — even if that’s just bingeing on your favorite TV show.
Time is fleeting. Nobody is more aware of that than those of us with MBC. Why waste time feeling sad about something completely out of your control? Cherish the time you have, and make the best of it.
8. Consider financial aid
Cancer care and treatment will no doubt put a strain on your finances. Additionally, you’ve likely needed to leave your job to focus on your health. It’s understandable if you’re concerned about finances and feel like you can’t afford things like a home cleaning service or weekly blowout.
If that’s the case, there are financial programs available to you. These sites offer financial assistance or provide further information on how to obtain financial aid: