Updated 03 April 2017

Living with cancer - tips for daily living

There are things you can do to make your life easier while you are living with, or recovering from cancer.


Water, water everywhere. Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water per day. This not only prevents constipation, but helps your kidneys to cope with the medication you may be taking.

Short cuts. If you are going to have chemotherapy, chances are that your hair may fall out. If you cut it short before the time – this way there will be much less hair to lose and the change will not be that remarkable, should your hair fall out.

Cut out the coffee. If you have problems with diarrhoea, caffeine in any form will make this worse. Remember that there are many cola drinks that contain caffeine – look out for these.

Watch your temperature. You are most susceptible to bacterial infections 7-12 days after chemotherapy. Watch out for any signs of an increasing temperature and go and see your doctor. Wash your hands frequently and avoid close contact with anyone who is ill, as you are also very susceptible to viral infections.

Three meals a day. If you are on any type of cancer medication, you should not skip meals. A small meal is better than no meal at all. Nausea is often a problem, especially if you have had chemotherapy. An empty stomach will worsen all symptoms that you do have. Starches such as rice and bread and potatoes are generally well tolerated. Remember fruit and vegetables are good for you too.

Bedknobs and broomsticks. Delegate as much of the heavy housework as you can. The things that you do have to do, should be spread out over the week. Remember that fitting long handles on brooms and dusters can alleviate the bending you have to do normally. Take regular breaks and get a high chair so that you can wash dishes and iron while sitting down.

Be freezerwise. If you are living by yourself, cook more than you need on the days you are feeling better. You will be very grateful on other days if you can just pop something into the microwave.

Put your money where your mouth is. Spend money on decent mouthwash – chemotherapy as well as other cancer treatments can play havoc with the inside of your mouth. The cells inside your mouth are rapidly dividing cells – the ones targeted by chemotherapy. You may develop mouth ulcers. A mouth wash and regular brushing with a soft toothbrush could go a long way towards preventing mouth ulcers.

Enjoy yourself. Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing all the things you really enjoy, whether it is seeing people, going to the movies, reading, watching sport, cooking, going to the theatre, going to the pub. You might have to make minor adjustments to make things a little easier, but it is important that you should enjoy yourself as well.

The magic of sleep. Sleep gives your body a chance to regenerate and recover. Usually adults need about seven hours. Try and get an extra hour of sleep every day, if possible. The medication you take can put extra stress on the body – try for an afternoon nap as well.

Get some fresh air. Even if you are not well enough to exercise, an hour or two in the sunshine or somewhere outside where it is pretty can do wonders for your sense of wellbeing. If you are well enough to go for a walk, do so – walking is pleasant and very beneficial exercise.

Friends indeed. This is the time when you will find out who your true friends are. When you are having a tough time, or need someone to talk to, or need to go out somewhere nice like the movies, friends are invaluable. Don’t be afraid to ask – chances are you would have been there for them had the situation been reversed.

No pain, no pain. With modern medical science being what it is, there is no reason why anyone should endure inordinate pain on an ongoing basis. If your painkillers do not work, or if they have nasty side effects, get something else from your doctor.

Bathroom blues. Move into the bedroom closest to the bathroom, especially if you have difficulty moving. Have a handrail installed if you need it. Remember that showering is always easier than bathing. Put a panic button in the bathroom in case you fall or get stuck or injured.

Bring on the entertainment. Many people who spend long periods of time in bed complain of boredom. There is much that can be done to alleviate this. The radio, magazines and books, cable TV, books on tape and videos are but a few examples of things that can be done to combat boredom. Get a book or magazine holder, so that you don’t have to balance the weight of books or magazines while you are reading.

Life line. Get a telephone next to your bed. This is a good idea not only in an emergency, but is also nice for social contact. A cellphone that you can carry around in the house with you is also great. Preprogramme emergency numbers.

(Liesel Powell, Health24)

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