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At times, coping with secondary breast cancer can be physically and emotionally demanding. But there will also be times when treatment| is controlling the cancer, and side effects or any symptoms| are under control.
You may have symptoms, treatment side effects and difficult emotions to cope with. It’s important to take good care of yourself and accept help from others. Family, friends and health professionals are usually keen to support you and there are also things you can do to help yourself.
Getting enough rest is important as your body uses up a lot more energy than usual when you’re coping with treatment or are unwell. Rest gives your body time to repair itself. Try pacing yourself so you don’t overdo things but balance this with some physical activity (see below). Getting enough sleep and saving your energy for the things you want to do are important. Our section on fatigue| has some useful tips.
Regular exercise after treatment can be a positive step in helping you recover. Just the smallest increase in your physical activity can help to build up your strength and help you feel better. It can also sometimes improve symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Exercise helps to keep bones healthy, builds your muscle strength, and can also improve your coordination and balance. A simple activity like walking can be done for a little longer and further each day - even just doing an activity for a few minutes a day can help. Listen to your body and be careful not to overdo it. Keeping physically active by doing things around the house or in the garden is also a good form of exercise.
There may be an exercise programme or a research study into the benefits of exercise at your hospital that you can take part in. Ask your cancer specialist, GP or specialist nurse for more information and advice.
Eating healthily| helps to improve our general health and well-being, which is important when coping with cancer.
Try to eat:
You should also drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated. Eating healthily also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which can help if you have bone or joint problems, and it’s better for your overall health.
You may have eating difficulties| as a result of the treatment or as a symptom of the cancer.
Try to keep eating well, even if you haven’t got much of an appetite. Eat little and often and, if possible, get someone else to help with shopping and/or preparing meals. There are lots of different supplement drinks| available (some on prescription) to help make sure you’re getting enough nutrients. Ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to a dietitian if you need more advice.
Some women find that using some complementary therapies| helps them feel better and more in control because they’re doing something for themselves.
Complementary therapies can help to improve your quality of life, and can sometimes help to reduce symptoms. You can be taught how to carry out some complementary therapies, such as relaxation, meditation or visualisation, which may help to reduce anxiety. Gentle massage can be carried out by your family, close friends or a trained therapist. Complementary therapies can usually be used alongside conventional treatments and medicines.
The following complementary therapies are now offered by some hospitals, hospices and cancer support groups:
Always let your cancer specialist know if you’re having therapies that involve taking supplements or other medicines. Some of these may interact with chemotherapy or other treatments.
Content last reviewed: 1 September 2010
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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