Once treatment is over, it’s time to recover strength and relearn a healthy lifestyle. You may have to learn to cope with physical changes from treatment. The emotional difficulties of not knowing what the future holds for you may make you anxious or depressed.
Maintaining Health and Well-Being: Taking Charge
Choose the right diet. Stage III colon cancer patients who followed a “Western diet” with emphasis on red meat, fat, refined grains and dessert were significantly more likely to have their cancer return than those who reported they ate mostly fruit and vegetables, poultry and fish, according to a study. Risk of dying or having cancer return was 3.91 times higher for Western pattern eaters.
Maintaining a healthy weight may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes which are serious health problems, whether or not you have been diagnosed with cancer.
Get active physically. Patients with stage III colon cancer who walked one mile at an average pace six days a week or had equivalent exercise had a 51 percent reduced risk of having their cancer return compared to those who were less active. Choose a physical activity that you enjoy — walking, swimming, biking — and aim initially for moderate exercise and then for more vigorous activity.
Don’t smoke. If you stopped smoking during treatment, congratulate yourself, and don’t begin again.
Coping with Late Effects of Treatment
After treatment ends, many side effects will end with it. However, some problems may continue. Don’t assume they can’t be helped. Medication, changes in diet, or therapy can reduce them or help you cope. Discuss them with your doctor. Among issues that colorectal cancer survivors face are:
- Continuing peripheral neuropathy
- Bowel problems and diarrhea
- Coping with an ostomy
- Chronic fatigue
- Sexual problems for both men and women
Dealing with Difficult Emotions
Almost everyone who is living with cancer — patient, survivor, or caregiver — will have times that they are frightened, discouraged, or stressed. However, when those emotions become overwhelming and make going on with daily life impossible, it is important to find skilled help to deal with them.
If you find yourself crying a lot, afraid to leave home, so worried about cancer coming back that you can’t focus on anything else, not sleeping, or having trouble eating, talk to your doctor about referral to a psychologist, clinical social worker, or other mental health professional who works with cancer patients.
Free professional counseling is available for cancer patients and survivors through CancerCare. Oncology social workers lead online support groups, provide telephone counseling, and or help you find a counselor to meet with in your community.
Where Can You Go for More Information
CancerCare also has a booklet Managing Diarrhea that is a helpful guide to understanding diet, medication, dehydration, and triggers for cancer-related diarrhea.