Once you are in cancer remission, it’s normal to have a fear of recurrence – of cancer returning. Whether it is you or your loved one, we have learned the hard way that there is no guarantee and that there is always a chance that some cancer cells survive. It can be challenging to trust your body again, and learning to cope with this fear and distrust is integral to getting and being healthy.
Knowledge is power when it comes to understanding your risk of recurrence. Most of the time, your risk depends on your type of cancer, advanced stage, treatment, age and general health, and more. Therefore, have an honest conversation with your medical team and create a follow-up care plan – also known as a survivorship care plan. Talk about the common signs of recurrence for your type of cancer. Having this assurance that your health is closely monitored and knowing what to look for can help alleviate your fears, so you can begin to trust your body again.
There are some additional things you can do as well to be as healthy as possible.
Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Conventional thinking is that the same healthy diet that may reduce cancer risk may also prevent cancer recurrence. These good health tips include:
- Eat a rainbow of veggies, from dark green to red to orange
- Keep that rainbow bright with a variety of whole fruits
- Add fiber-rich legumes like beans and peas to your daily meal plan
- Limit or avoid red meat, such as beef, pork, or lamb, as well as processed meats
- Reduce or stop drinking sugary beverages, like soda or sweet tea
- Consult with your health team on the nutrients you need to help you get to and maintain healthy body weight
- Talk to your doctor before drinking any alcohol and get their recommendation on intake
Embrace Physical Activity
There is no known link between physical activity and preventing cancer recurrence. However, we do know that physical activity can help reduce anxiety, boost your mood, improve your self-esteem, and fight symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and depression.
Before you begin any exercise program, it’s essential to check with your medical team and understand your limitations. It’s normal to dread or feel insecure when starting to exercise again; that’s why you should take it slow, building up underused muscles over time and reminding yourself that a little physical activity is better than none. But most importantly of all, make sure you are doing something that you enjoy! For instance, walking is perfectly okay if you don’t like running.
Other Health Tips
Taking vitamins or supplements may help your general health, but consult your cancer care team before adding any to your diet that has not already been prescribed. And not using tobacco products is a must.
Your health is more than just physical; it’s mental as well. If you are struggling and continue to worry about cancer recurrence, consider joining a peer support group or seeking help from a mental health professional. There is no shame in getting help with your emotions. You’ve won your fight against cancer, now is the time to live your life to the fullest.
We hope that your cancer never returns. However, if you experience signs or symptoms – or develop new symptoms – go see your doctor immediately. They are the best person on your side to determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a care plan if needed.