Treating non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a process that can take many months or years. During that time, you may go through chemotherapy cycles, radiation treatments, surgery, and many doctor’s appointments.
NSCLC treatment can be exhausting and time-consuming, so it’s important to find some balance. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of life while you’re treating your cancer.
Relieve your symptoms
Both lung cancer and its treatments can cause side effects like fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and pain. It’s hard to get enjoyment out of life when you don’t feel well.
But there are ways to manage your side effects. A group of treatments collectively known as palliative care can relieve your side effects and help you feel better. You can get palliative care from the doctor who treats your cancer, or at a center that provides this type of care.
Put work on hold
About 46 percent of cancer survivors in the United States are of working age, and many older adults are continuing to work past age 64. A job can sometimes be a positive thing, taking your mind off the stresses of treatment. Yet having to go to work when you don’t feel well can also add to your stress.
You may need extra time off to focus on your treatment and to give your body time to recover. Ask your human resources department for your company’s policy on paid and unpaid leave, and how long you can take off.
If your company doesn’t offer you time off, check whether you qualify under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or other federal or state programs.
Living with cancer can be emotionally draining. It’s important to get support from others. Talk to the people you trust most, including your spouse, parents, siblings, and close friends.
Join a support group for people with NSCLC. You can find a group through your hospital or from an organization like the American Cancer Society. In a support group, you’ll be surrounded by people who understand exactly what you’re going through.
Depression is common in people with NSCLC. Feeling down all the time can make your disease even harder to manage. See a counselor or therapist for advice. Talk therapy can help you cope with the stresses of your disease.
Adjust your priorities
Before NSCLC, your life might have followed a set routine. Cancer can throw you off your normal schedule.
There may be things you need to put on hold right now — like cleaning your house or cooking for your family. Do only as much as you can. Delegate less critical tasks to the people around you so you can focus all your energy on healing.
When you feel overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths. Meditation — a practice that combines breathing with mental focus — helps to relieve stress and improve the quality of life in people with lung cancer.
Yoga and massage are two other relaxation techniques that calm both your mind and body.
Everyday activities can be relaxing, too. Listen to your favorite songs. Take a warm bath. Or, play catch with your kids.
Do what you love
Cancer treatment takes a lot of time and energy. But you can still find time to enjoy simple activities. Though you might not have the energy for activities like rock climbing or mountain biking, you can still do at least some of the things you love.
See a funny movie with a friend. Curl up with a good book. Walk outside for a few minutes to clear your mind. Take up a hobby like scrapbooking or knitting.
Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can reduce your appetite and change the way foods taste. A lack of desire to eat can prevent you from getting the nutrients you need.
During cancer treatment is one time when you don’t need to count calories. Eat the foods you love, and that taste good to you. Also, keep your favorite snacks on hand. Sometimes it’s easier to eat small portions throughout the day, rather than three big meals.
Cancer can create an obstacle in your life, but it doesn’t have to disrupt your routine completely. While you focus on treatment, also take time to care for yourself.
Do things that help you feel better. Practice relaxation techniques, get out and socialize with friends, and ask for support whenever you need it.