Ten New Year's Resolutions for Cancer Survivors
by Karen Syrjala, PhD
There are 12 million survivors in the United States, and while it’s good news that their numbers are growing, not all are problem-free. Many have long-term health needs resulting from having cancer and being treated for it. Here are some suggested New Year’s resolutions for survivors who want to lead healthier lives:
1. “I resolve to get a personal doctor.”
If you don’t have a primary care provider, now is the time to find one. As a survivor you have special needs for someone who monitors your overall health, including cholesterol and heart health, diabetes risks, second cancers, bone health, and other areas of health and wellness that keep survivors thriving.
2. “I resolve to plan for my long-term survivorship care.”
Get a summary of your surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy doses to communicate to your primary care provider. Survivorship programs such as the one at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center can help you create a personalized plan for follow-up care to share with your doctor. Talk with your primary care doctor about potential long-term effects of your cancer treatment and how you’ll watch out for your individual risks.
3. “I resolve to get moving.”
Physical activity is the clearest step you can take to benefit your health. It is certain to make you feel better and help your body and brain to function better. It can even reduce your cancer-related risks. Make opportunities to walk or take stairs. Move more during the day, even if it’s a 5 or 10 minute break 3 times a day to walk up a few flights of stairs. Build muscles to build energy and reduce fatigue. Join an exercise program for cancer survivors to get you started if it’s just too hard to do alone. Check with your local Y to see if they have a program for cancer survivors.
4. “I resolve to learn about and practice healthy nutrition.”
Eating lots of fruit and vegetables is the goal. Whole foods are better than supplements. Focus on eating more of what your body needs (fruits and vegetables) and less on trying not to eat certain foods. Find out what supplements are good for you and which to avoid. Look online, attend a nutrition workshop for cancer survivors or schedule an appointment with a nutritionist if you are unsure what is healthy for you or have digestion problems.
5. “I resolve to manage my fear of cancer recurrence.”
First, find out your risk of recurrence from your health care provider. Second, remember that risk is based on averages and does not apply to you as an individual. Third, consider counseling to help you face your fears and move forward.
6. “I resolve to attend to my body’s needs.”
To help ensure your long-term survival and a better quality of life, don’t smoke, limit alcoholic drinks to one per day, and use sunscreen to protect your skin. Make sure you get sufficient vitamin D.
7. “I resolve to manage symptoms.”
Don’t suffer unnecessarily. Talk to your doctor if you have fatigue or lack of stamina that does not improve with time; chemo brain, or mental fog, that makes it hard to work or remember what you need to do; pain, neuropathy (numbness or pain in your feet hands or elsewhere) or other aches or symptoms that make it hard to enjoy your life. Make an appointment to focus solely on the symptoms that reduce your quality of life. If you have lymphedema or other difficulty moving your body, now might be the time to see a physical therapist.
8. “I resolve to connect with other survivors.”
Your family and friends are great support pillars. However, many find it valuable to talk or exercise with others who have experienced cancer and truly understand what it’s like to be a survivor. Look for resources in your community and online.
9. “I resolve to read ‘Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment.’”
This is a free booklet from the National Cancer Institute that lists services to help you live a healthy, happy life after cancer. If you don’t have one from your treatment provider, call the NCI at 800-4-CANCER (422-6237).
10. “I resolve to learn more about a cancer survivorship program in my community.”
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