Getting a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis can be a shock. Suddenly, your life changes dramatically. You may feel overwhelmed with uncertainty and enjoying a good quality of life may seem out of reach.
But there are still ways to find pleasure in life. Adding exercise, therapy, and social interaction to your routine can go a long way toward supporting your mind and body through your cancer journey.
In the past, healthcare professionals advised people undergoing treatment for cancer to take it easy and get plenty of rest. That’s no longer the case.
Research from 2020 showed that exercise is beneficial for people with early and metastatic cancer. The research shared that physical activity can improve outlook and quality of life, and researchers suggested making it a part of every cancer care plan.
A 2019 research review showed that people with breast cancer who were more active had a 40% lower risk of dying from breast cancer than those who were not.
Even small amounts of moderate exercise can lead to health benefits by reducing some of the most common side effects of cancer treatments. These include:
- trouble remembering or concentrating (commonly called “chemo brain” or “chemo fog”)
Physical activity can also improve balance, prevent muscle atrophy, and reduce the risk of blood clots, which are all crucial for recovery.
Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise are equally beneficial in easing the side effects of cancer treatment. Aerobic exercise is a sustained activity that increases the heart rate and pumps more oxygen to the muscles. It helps you manage your weight, improve your mental health, and boost your immunity. Examples include:
Anaerobic exercise is a high intensity, short-duration activity that builds muscle mass and overall strength. Examples include:
- heavy lifting
- squats or lunges
- jump rope
Ask your doctor how much and how often you can exercise, and if there are types of exercises you need to avoid. Making physical activity part of your treatment plan can aid your physical recovery and improve your emotional well-being.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of short-term, hands-on psychotherapy. Its goal is to change the underlying behavior and thinking patterns that cause anxiety and doubt.
This type of therapy may help alleviate some of the depression and loneliness that may arise when you’re living with advanced breast cancer. It may even aid in recovery and boost longevity.
If you’re interested in finding a therapist, you can start your search on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Therapist Directory.
Ancient mind-body practices and other complementary therapies may help manage the psychological effects of cancer treatment. Such practices include:
- tai chi
These activities may enhance your quality of life by reducing stress and fatigue. A
If you have an advanced breast cancer diagnosis, it can be particularly helpful to connect with others who know what you’re going through.
Support groups are great spaces for learning coping skills related to exercise, diet, and meditation to help you manage the stress of the condition.
There are many resources online to help you find support. These websites may be good starting points:
Your doctor, hospital, or treatment professional can also provide you with a list of support groups in your area.
A 2017 study showed that people living with cancer might be slightly more likely to survive 5 years or more after chemotherapy if they interact during chemotherapy with others who have survived 5 years or longer. This is because these social interactions can help gain a positive mindset and reduce stress.
Here are a few simple ways you can engage socially:
- Go out to eat.
- Take a walk or bike ride with others.
- Join a support group.
- Play a game of cards or a board game with friends.
It’s natural to feel scared, overwhelmed, and uncertain after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, but you can overcome those emotions.
By engaging in physical and social activities, you can improve your quality of life, reduce stress, and gain a positive outlook moving forward.