Living with neuroendocrine cancer is manageable. There are many options for maintaining a wellness plan, here are a few ideas. Special thanks to Heartland Carcinoid/NETs Support Group for their great list, which we have built upon.
Exercise: is the single most important activity you can do when you have cancer. There is a lot of research suggesting that exercise can help prevent or slow down the recurrence of your cancer. You don’t have to run a marathon. No pain no gain is not the point here. Talk to your doctor for suggestions for your fitness level at this point and always listen to your body. Doctors can also refer you to physical therapy programs geared for patients recovering from cancer treatments. It will let you know if you are overdoing it. Start slowly and build up. All forms of exercise will give you a sense of well-being.
- Walking: even if you can only do five minutes at a time, work at your own pace in sessions throughout the day and build up to make about 30 minutes a day. You’ll get some fresh air, some Vitamin D from the sun*, and the aerobic benefits for your heart. If you have a dog, they will appreciate the walk too. *Remember, sunscreen will actually block Vitamin D production. About 30 minutes a day of sun exposure with unprotected skin is sufficient for Vitamin D. If you plan to spend more time outside than that, please use a sunscreen. Sunburns hurt!
- Swimming: is a low impact form of exercise and can be good for people recovering from surgery. By simply floating in the water or just walking in a pool, will give you benefits. It is a great way to increase your endurance and strength.
- Yoga or Pilates: is an excellent way to reduce stress, gain flexibility and build core strength. If you have have recent surgery, work an instructor who can help you modify your moves to avoid injury. Chair yoga is a great option for all levels of fitness. Yoga will help with flexibility, while Pilates helps with aligning your spine and strengthening your core muscles.
- Weight lifting and resistance exercise: by doing simple exercises with light objects you will gain strength and keep your muscles active. This could be 1 or 2 pound barbells or even soup cans. Resistance exercise can be doing wall push-ups or using rubber resistance bands.
- Tai Chi or Spring Forest Qi Gong: are both excellent, healing forms of gentle movement martial arts that help improve your balance, flexibility, reduce stress and work energy throughout your body.
- Bike riding: if you can, a station or mobile bicycle will work many muscle groups and give you a great cardio workout.
- Dancing: this could be any form of dancing that makes your heart and body sing. Maybe that is belly dancing, salsa dancing, ballroom dancing or just flapping your arms and singing along to your favorite tunes.
Pain management: if you are struggling with pain there are a variety of non-drug options for you. Some people prefer massage, others like acupuncture, and biofeedback is a great way to understand your triggers and to train yourself how to control them.
Hobbies and interests: try to do something you love every day like reading, playing the piano, gardening, sewing, cooking, playing games, woodworking, knitting, watching a ballgame, listening to your favorite music or playing with your children or grandchildren.
Remember, you are not an island: Reach out to friends and family, they love you and want you to be happy and can help you smile and feel worthwhile and loved, even when you feel at your lowest.
Reach out to other survivors. Attend a support meeting or an online chat or mailing list or make a phone call. We get it. We’ve been there. And, we might be able to give you some suggestions as to how we cope.
Spend time in nature. It’s amazing how green space, the song of a bird or watching clouds roll by can be soothing to your soul.
Volunteer: in whatever capacity you are able to, figure out ways to contribute to your family, your community, your local schools, your church, a support group or cause that is dear to your heart. It will make someone else’s life more joyful as well as yours.
Don’t focus on your limitations. Focus on what you can do. Even though your normal might have changed, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate in things you love. You just have to work within your limits. Rather than playing a sport, attend some local kids games of that game – baseball, soccer or football. It will make you feel good to get out and will make the kids feel great too. Or, maybe you can’t walk as far as you used to, so limit your distance and speed. Again, the key here is…listen to your body.
Get a therapist: if you are truly struggling with ways to make your life more manageable, we recommend that you talk to your doctor. You may be struggling with untreated depression or anxiety that is all-too-common with cancer diagnosis. Therapy can include medications as well as non-medical treatments like EFT, journaling, psychotherapy, acupuncture, spiritual practice, proper nutrition, meditation, Reiki or other energy work, sleep management, music therapy, homeopathy and many more. If you are truly struggling to maintain a good outlook, there is no shame. You are dealing a big life situation and you are validated to your feelings.