Surviving cancer and enjoying life after treatment involves a principle which Native people have known and used for centuries: balance.
Healthy survivorship means working toward a balance of emotional (feelings), intellectual (keeping the mind working well), spiritual and physical parts of our beings. The experience of being diagnosed with cancer, and especially surviving cancer, helps us put our lives into perspective. It helps us to see what is really important in life - for ourselves, our family and our true friends.
As you work to achieve this balance your physical well-being is obviously important. You will want to take good care of your body, at the same time you are working to meet your emotional needs, maybe getting your mind ready to go back to work, and sustaining your spirit in the way that has the greatest meaning and helpfulness for you.
Each of these four areas has an impact on all the others. But if we're talking just about the physical health, that means nutrition, physical activity and your attitude.
A very important part of this physical well-being is your nutrition. Your food likes and dislikes may have changed with treatment, especially if chemotherapy altered your ability to taste different foods. This may be an opportunity to look at how you used to eat and to decide if that was healthy and if that's the way you want to continue to eat. This may be an opportunity to create new eating habits.
There are many facts known about the relationship of cancer to certain foods (and physical activity, too). Important principles of nutrition in healthy survivorship include:
- maintaining a normal weight for your height
- not eating too much fat
- getting lean protein to help rebuild your muscles which got weak during treatment
- eating lots of vegetables, especially in the cabbage family
- eating lots of fruit, especially citrus
- eating plenty of fiber
- eating a varied diet to get a variety of vitamins and minerals
- taking a multivitamin
- drinking plenty of good water
- drinking little or no alcohol
- stopping smoking
You may find yourself eating differently from your family. The fact is, the healthy survivorship diet is healthy for everyone. You may be doing your family a big favor, if they begin to eat the way you are eating. So you may have a chance to set a good example for them. Not only will the foods you are choosing help prevent cancer, but they will also help your family lessen their chances of diabetes and heart disease
Enjoy your food just as you enjoy each day of survivorship. And know that each good food you choose is going to help you strengthen your body and sustain your survivorship.