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​​When it comes to healthy living, there is no single meaning. One of the first things to come to mind when people think of “healthy living” is eating healthy foods and getting exercise. But healthy living also includes other things you do that make your body, mind and spirit feel good.

Although there are many different ways you can make healthy lifestyle choices, you have to be ready to make these changes. When you’re in the middle of treatment, you may have more pressing things on your mind – and that’s OK. Embracing a healthy lifestyle is something that happens over time and only when you’re ready to make the change.

Find what a healthy lifestyle means to you by reading how other cancer survivors describe theirs.

​​​ Put Yourself First

When you have cancer, it is important to take care of yourself first. As one cancer survivor put it: “Nobody has the time to have cancer. We’re all busy living our lives. But when you’re diagnosed, your first concern should be to make sure that you are OK, so you can go back to taking care of others once this is over.” Now is the time to be selfish.

When you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed, don’t try to “work through” it. Take the time to rest and relax so you don’t wear yourself out. Some cancer survivors found it helpful to:

  • Give yourself permission to stop and relax.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Say “no” to things that would create more stress in your life.
  • Ask for help to get things done.
  • Find activities that give you peace of mind, like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or art.

​​​ Enjoy Life

Your life is more than cancer. Cancer may be a big part of it right now, and it may continue to be part of your life forever, but there are other important parts of living too.

It is OK to feel sad, angry or frustrated, but it is also OK to feel happy, pleasure, or joy. As one cancer survivor put it: “Find ways to have fun even when you’re in a miserable place.”

Find small ways to add a little joy to your day:

  • Find ways to laugh and smile every day, like wearing a goofy wig or dancing around your home. You may even make other people laugh too.
  • Learn to appreciate every moment, even the winter.
  • Do something you enjoy – reading, bird watching, working on you computer, ceramics, singing, anything – to take your mind off what you’re going through.
  • Try something new that you’ve never had the courage to try before.
  • Get outside and play.
  • Find time to smell the flowers and notice the world around you.

​​​ Take Care of Your Body

Knowing what to do to eat right and stay active can be confusing. You may hear or read news reports that support or are against the latest “superfood” or “miracle diet”. It can be hard to know what to believe. Some survivors blame themselves for their cancer and have regrets, thinking they should have eaten less of something or more of something else. This is not true. However, taking care of your body can help you feel better and give you strength.

Instead of following the trends, take a more balanced approach and enjoy everything in balance and do things that make your body feel good. You can also get information from a health care professional that has knowledge and experience working with people with cancer.

Some cancer survivors found it made them feel better to:

  • Eat balanced amounts of a wide variety of food, and savour every bite.
  • Eat as many vegetables as you can, but leave a little room for treats every now and then (and don’t feel guilty about eating them).
  • Take your fitness routine to the next level, no matter if you’re a beginner or an expert.
  • Try using deep breathing techniques to relieve pain or energize yourself.
  • Lower your exposure to chemicals, like those in cleaning and personal care products.

​​​ Get Support from Other People

Having cancer may be one of the hardest things you have faced. Don’t feel like you need to manage cancer by yourself. You are not alone. Family, friends, and health care professionals can offer you support by helping you through tough times or helping you with everyday tasks.

Some cancer survivors found it helpful to:

  • Accept offers of help from family, friends, and even well-meaning strangers.
  • Surround yourself with the people who make you feel loved and good about yourself. Spend less time with those who don’t.
  • Join a support group for people affected by cancer. No matter how supportive your family and friends may be there are some things about living with cancer that they will not be able to understand.
  • Talk to a counsellor, social worker, or psychologist, even if you don’t think you need the extra support. You can share your deepest, darkest thoughts with a professional without worrying about upsetting them.

​​​ Let Go

Letting go means giving yourself permission to let out your feelings. This can help you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Another part of letting go is realizing that some things aren’t worth worrying about. As one survivor said, “I don’t stress if the household chores weren’t done properly. After what I’ve been through, it’s not important to me anymore.”

Some cancer survivors found it helpful to:

  • Give yourself permission to cry and let your feelings out.
  • Try using art or writing to express yourself.
  • Let go of worries about the things you can’t control.
  • Know what is really important to you, and let go of the rest.

No matter what choices you make, pursue the healthy lifestyle choices that feel right for you.


The resources listed here were added by Michelle Snow, Patient Education Librarian, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and ELLICSR Cancer Survivorship Centre.

  • Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide
    The purpose of this resource is to guide food selection and promote the nutritional health of Canadians.
  • Unlock Food
    Speak with a registered dietitian for free and get answers to your nutrition and healthy eating questions.
  • Psychosocial Oncology & Palliative Care - Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
    This department at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre helps to treat pain and other physical and emotional symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, and assist patients and their families in managing the complexities of having cancer.
  • ELLICSR Kitchen - Princess Margaret Cancer Centre The ELLICSR Kitchen is a cooking and nutrition program. Find recipes, cooking tips and nutrition education to help you eat well before, during and after cancer treatment.

For more information visit the Princess Margaret Patient & Family Library or call 416 946 4501 ext. 5383. ​


Last reviewed: 9/11/2018
Last modified: 6/11/2024 7:56 AM
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