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looking after yourself


A huge part of managing cancer is learning how to look after yourself. By making sure you’re taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, you’re not only better prepared to take on challenges, but also ready to enjoy good things that come your way.


One of the first things to know about self-care is when to say no. You are the only person who knows your limits, so it’s good to practice setting boundaries and choosing where to put your energy. That said, it can be a good thing to use your energy on some of the activities you’ve always enjoyed, or even try learning something new.


We’ve put together some tried and tested suggestions for self-care below.

looking after your body

  • Exercise: Keeping active, even in a very small way, can have benefits
  • Healthy eating: Food may not seem appealing during treatment, but eating well is still important to stay healthy
  • Laugh: Do whatever you need to do to make it happen – dark humour is definitely acceptable
  • Sleep: There is a good chance treatment may leave you feeling fatigued. Don’t feel the need to fight this. Rest if you need to
  • Be honest: Alcohol and recreational drugs can interfere with your treatment and it’s important to tell doctors about using them. Doctors hear all sorts of things, so you’re not going to shock them

looking after your mind

  • Give yourself a break. You don’t have to achieve everything right now. Relax. Put it on a list for later
  • Talk, share and learn. Join a group with other people who have been in a similar situation. Peer support can be very powerful
  • Express yourself. Use a journal, blog, or video diary. However you do it, recording how you're feeling can help make sense of things
  • Ask for help from friends, family, your medical team, a counsellor – whoever you think can give you the support you’re after
  • Relax – music, massage, crochet, whatever works for you
  • Been meaning to learn to meditate or practice mindfulness? This isn't the same as just relaxing, and many people find that it really does help

having fun and taking risks

It might sound strange, but it’s okay to have fun if you have cancer. Cancer doesn’t define you, so it shouldn’t stop you from being the person you want to be. This may mean stepping out of your comfort zone or taking a few risks.


A good sense of humour, even a black one at times, can be a great asset in dealing with cancer. There are some very funny young adult cancer blogs. Check out websites like Stupid Cancer as starting points.

Last updated September 2015.