Living with advanced cancer affects both your physical and emotional health.
Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is treatable. Yet even with treatment, malignant cells can spread to other parts of the body. As the disease progresses, you may have increased fatigue, pain, and weight loss.
Managing your day-to-day life with RCC can be difficult. Staying on track with your treatment and going to all your doctor appointments is the best way to manage your symptoms.
The following are some lifestyle tips you might also want to try to improve your quality of life.
Advanced RCC can affect your appetite. At times, you might not feel like eating or drinking.
However, a lack of calories can accelerate weight loss and limit energy, so proper nutrition is important to maintain your strength.
Even if you’re only able to eat small meals, you’ll be able to get enough nutrients during the day.
To start, make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables — about 2.5 cups of each per day. These contain antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins that can boost your immune system and help slow cancer progression.
Also, try to incorporate healthy fats (salmon, avocado, sardines, olive oil), whole grains, and lean meats into your diet.
If you need advice on food choices, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian. They can develop a meal plan that’s specific to your needs.
Smoking is a risk factor for kidney cancer.
If you haven’t already, look for nicotine replacement options to help you kick the habit for good. Also, talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs or prescription medications to help curb your cravings.
Giving up smoking can improve overall kidney function.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering waste and toxins from your bloodstream. Cigarettes contain many toxic chemicals. The more you smoke, the harder your kidneys have to work.
You might be unable to engage in intense, vigorous workouts while living with advanced RCC. Incorporating some light activity into your daily routine can have a positive effect on your overall health.
Exercise can improve your energy level, as well as build your strength and stamina. Plus, exercise increases immunity. A stronger immune system can help you fight cancer and infections.
Living with advanced RCC can also affect your emotional health. Fears and concerns about the future could lead to worry, stress, and depression.
Physical activity can help
Choose an exercise you can do regularly. This might be walking, biking, swimming, light aerobics, yoga, or Pilates, depending on your energy level.
Start off slow and gradually increase the intensity as your body adjusts to the new routine.
It’s always important to listen to your body. When living with advance RCC, you’ll have good and bad days.
Take advantage of your good days by spending time with friends and family. Or enjoy activities outside the house, but don’t overdo it.
If you start to feel tired or sluggish, take a break. Resting helps conserve your energy long term. You can also increase your energy by getting plenty of sleep at night.
Anxiety can sometimes keep you awake and disrupt your rest. But a good night’s sleep can help you feel better and even improve your mood. Create a comfortable sleep environment to help you get the restful sleep you need.
Avoid overstimulation before bedtime. Here are several tips that may help:
- Stay off your computer or mobile device for about 1 to 2 hours before going to sleep.
- Keep your room as dark and quiet as possible.
- Maintain a comfortable bedroom temperature so you’re not too hot or too cold.
Living with advanced RCC also puts you at a higher risk of infection. Cancer, as well as some cancer treatments, can weaken your immune system, reducing your number of disease-fighting white blood cells.
To avoid your risk of illness, talk to your doctor to see if you’re a candidate for the flu vaccine or pneumonia vaccine.
Other simple measures can also help you stay healthy. For example, wash your hands frequently, especially when out in public and before eating.
Make a concerted effort to keep your hands away from your eyes, mouth, and nose. Limit contact with people who are sick. And if you can’t avoid crowds during cold and flu season, wear a face mask.
Pain is another complication of advanced RCC. The best relief methods will depend on the severity of your pain, which might range from mild to severe.
Some people can manage their pain with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
Sometimes, doctors have to prescribe stronger medications like oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl (Duragesic), or morphine. Pain medications are administered either orally or intravenously (into your vein).
If pain medication alone doesn’t work, your doctor might suggest a corticosteroid or antidepressant to help provide relief.
You can also try other complementary therapies to increase blood circulation and reduce inflammation or pain. Examples include:
- massage therapy
- physical therapy
Joining a support group is another way to help cope with advanced RCC.
Sometimes hospitals, medical clinics, and other facilities organize in-person support groups. They provide a platform for people diagnosed with cancer to open up and receive encouragement.
You can also connect with people online by joining the Kidney Cancer Support Network group on Facebook.
Getting support can provide a measure of comfort, helping you feel less alone. Along with joining a support group for yourself, your family members can join support groups designed specifically for loved ones.
Advanced renal cell carcinoma isn’t usually curable, but it’s treatable. Treatment can help slow the progression of the disease, allowing you to have a satisfying life.
Getting a diagnosis can be emotionally and physically overwhelming, but life doesn’t have to stop. With the right treatment and coping strategies, you can live a full life with this disease.