How to get your life back
No, you can’t change the fact that you have had cancer. But you can change how you live the rest of your life, and that starts with making choices to help you stay healthy and feel as well as you can.
Your diagnosis might have forced you to focus on your health in ways you may not have thought about before getting sick. Now that your treatment is complete, it’s a good time to make changes that can have a positive impact for the rest of your life.
Eat right. This may have been tough during treatment, which often changes your sense of taste. You may have battled nausea or had little appetite. All of this can be frustrating. But now that treatment is complete, it’s time to get back to healthy eating habits. Simple changes, like increasing the variety of healthy foods you eat, can have long-term benefits. You may want to speak with a nutritionist about ways to incorporate healthy foods back into your diet.
Fight fatigue. No energy, bone-tired exhaustion, otherwise known as fatigue, is common in people being treated for cancer. Often, no matter how much rest you get, it doesn’t get better. For some people, fatigue continues for quite a while after treatment is over, which can make it hard to be active. It may sound like an oxymoron, but exercise actually helps reduce fatigue. Studies show patients who follow an exercise program tailored to their personal needs feel better physically and emotionally and can cope better, too. If you weren’t very active during treatment, your fitness, endurance and muscle strength have probably slipped, so start slowly—maybe with short walks—and build up to pre-cancer workout levels. A fitness buddy may help motivate you on days when you’d prefer not to exercise. Of course, talk to your health-care provider before you start any exercise plan.
Stop smoking. Recent research shows men who smoke are more likely to have their prostate cancer recur than men who don’t smoke.
Maintain a healthy weight. Black men already have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than other men. A recent study shows obesity quadruples that risk.
Reclaim intimacy. As soon as you receive a prostate cancer diagnosis, you should talk to your health-care team about treatment options that will let you resume an active sex life. Understand that no matter what therapy you have, there will be some impact on your sex life, though modern treatments are much better in this regard. Urologists maintain that you can have sex again, but you should understand it may be different and require time and patience. If your treatment has left your with erectile dysfunction, know that most men see an improvement within a year, after nerves heal.
Ease worry. After battling cancer, most people worry about a recurrence. Unfortunately, for many cancers there isn’t a lot of solid evidence to guide actions. Most studies have looked at lifestyle changes as a means to prevent cancer in the first place, not how to prevent it from coming back. But some recent research suggests men who exercise regularly after treatment for prostate cancer may live longer than those who don’t. More vigorous activity may be more helpful than less vigorous activity.