Looking after yourself

Even though cancer treatment can make you feel quite sick, staying as healthy as you can while you’re having treatment will help your body to recover and help you cope emotionally.

It’s important to look after yourself, which means you should:

Eat well

  • Eat well throughout the day. Food gives your body fuel to keep it running – and during cancer treatment it needs extra fuel to fight the cancer.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruit – aim for five serves of veggies a day and two serves of fruit.

Get regular exercise

It may be the last thing you feel like doing – especially if you feel completely wiped out from treatment – but even a small amount of physical activity is good for your body and your mind.

    • Exercise can help to increase your energy, sleep better, manage your weight, keep your bones strong, and feel better about yourself.
    • Don’t start training for a marathon or playing five sets of tennis – just some gentle exercise can be really beneficial. You could try walking, swimming or yoga.
    • While you are having treatment, check with your doctor or someone in your treatment team about what kind of exercise is okay for you and how much. Your treatment team may link you with a physiotherapist to help develop an appropriate exercise plan.

Get enough sleep

Some cancer treatments (or just being in a hospital!) can affect your normal sleep patterns. And many people get insomnia – difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep – when they are worried about something.

Having enough, uninterrupted sleep (8-10 hours for adolescents and young adults) is a basic human need – like eating and breathing – and essential for your physical and emotional health while you’re dealing with cancer.

Minimise use of drugs and alcohol

Cancer and cancer treatment mess with your body – your energy levels will be down and you may struggle to fight off infections. Drugs and alcohol only make this harder.

Using drugs and drinking alcohol can:

  • interfere with the treatments you are having, and possibly make them less effective
  • make some side effects (like mouth sores/ulcers, nausea and vomiting) worse
  • increase your chances of getting chest infections and other respiratory (breathing) problems
  • cause other infections
  • affect your moods and behaviour, making it harder for you to cope with cancer physically and emotionally.

You need to be straight with your treatment team about any drugs you are using or have used before. This includes drugs (like weed, coke, MDMA or ecstasy) as well as alcohol and cigarettes. Doctors and health professionals won’t lecture or judge you (usually!), but need to know so they can ensure your treatment is as effective as possible.