Starting a new year, which many celebrate by looking ahead, may be a time of special reflection for those who are undergoing or who have finished cancer treatment.
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If this is you, consider making some New Year’s resolutions for your health and your life post-cancer. Resolutions can help to focus your actions in the right direction as you move forward, says oncologist Dale Shepard, MD, PhD.
“Making resolutions with the goal of improving health can help a cancer patient feel they can have an impact on their future,” Dr. Shepard says.
Here are six resolutions that Dr. Shepard says that cancer patients – both former and current – can make in the New Year:
- Eat a healthy diet, exercise and get a good night’s sleep. Eating whole, unprocessed foods, moving your body and getting enough rest lead to a better well-being physically and mentally. These habits also can make tumor recurrence less likely. If a tumor does reoccur, these habits can make treatment easier to tolerate.
- Volunteer or find time to help others. Now that you’ve successfully navigated the challenges of cancer diagnosis and treatment, share your knowledge and support with others. This may mean talking with someone who has just been diagnosed or perhaps someone who is undergoing treatment. Opportunities to help other include programs such as the 4th Angel Patient & Caregiver Mentoring Program or organizations such as the Gathering Place. Connecting with others is invaluable. It can lead you to better understand your own experiences while reaping the rewards of helping others.
- Keep your follow-up appointments with your oncologist. After completing chemotherapy, many patients are understandably tired of the blood tests, the CT scans or MRIs and the doctor visits. They want to get away from all of it. But keeping regular follow-up appointments with your oncologist is important. These visits ensure earlier detection should cancer reoccur, which gives you the best chance for the most effective treatment.
- Schedule an annual physical exam with your primary care physician. You saw your oncologist frequently during treatment, but now you are cancer-free. Make sure the rest of your health gets the same attention your cancer did and attend to your health as a whole. An annual well-visit to your family doctor can set you on the right path.
- Get any necessary age-appropriate cancer screening. Just because you’ve had a cancer and beat it, you are still at risk for other cancer — just like anyone else. Don’t let your success with treating a cancer cause you to avoid age-appropriate screening for other cancers.
- Remember to enjoy life. Take up a new hobby, travel, or learn a new skill. You’ve made it through another year and that is something worth celebrating.