Feeling positive can help with coping problems related to breast cancer1, and studies showed that listing the reasons for gratitude every day was associated with better self-esteem and higher levels of optimism.2
“Many patients say that facing the uncertainties of living with an illness makes life more meaningful. The smallest pleasures are intensified and much of the hypocrisy in life is eliminated,” state Dr Ernest and Isadora Rosenbaum.1
If you want to enjoy life but don’t know what to do or where to start, here are some tips to help you live each day to the fullest.
Travel: You might think that breast cancer isn’t compatible with a travelling lifestyle, but there’s good news! Whether you’re a seasoned traveller, or your diagnosis has triggered an urge to explore the world, your thirst for new horizons doesn’t need to be suppressed! You may need to plan specific aspects, such as notifying your healthcare team (especially if you are in active treatment), asking for a disability pre-board on flights, or having travel insurance that covers breast cancer-related issues, etc.3, 4
Go on a therapeutic retreat: If you are not comfortable with travelling by yourself, or if you would like the opportunity to meet other breast cancer survivors, why not participate in a therapeutic retreat?5 These retreats are committed to creating a safe environment where you can take part in discussion groups, creative arts, adapted physical activities, and more. On top of that, many of them offer financial assistance and some are even totally free of charge!6, 7
Visit a therapeutic spa: Another way of having a real break is to combine travelling with a therapeutic spa. Here you can relax and enjoy adapted massages, as well as have physical training, dietary education, and physiotherapy. A study with a small group of patients showed a 2-week spa stay with these interventions improved women’s quality of life and sleep, and reduced depression.8
Participate in outdoor activities: Enjoying outdoor activities is possible even if you are receiving breast cancer treatment or if you have a fresh surgical scar.9 Always consult your physician for adapted healthcare advice.
Love yourself, meet others
Join an association: If you want to engage in social activities, why not look for a local patient association? Either at a member’s house or in public spaces, meetings allow you to enjoy social events and meet new people. Don’t hesitate to look for a group in your area!10
Welcome intimacy: Love and sensuality do not have to end on the day of your diagnosis, but telling a potential partner about your conditions might be a major challenge. To the fear of rejection can be added libido disorders or treatment-induced vaginal dryness that may make you feel uncomfortable with intimacy. Choosing to resume being intimate with someone after a breast cancer diagnosis is extremely personal. Some women want to keep having sex during treatment, some may prefer waiting, while others may only need companionship without any intercourse.11
Date online or in real life: If you are single and interested in dating, there are many ways of meeting someone. You could plan activities with friends, join an association, or sign up for an online dating service.12 If you dread “the talk,” platforms like CancerMatch13 can help you take that first step into the dating world, to find someone with whom cancer won’t be a taboo.14
Pose for a professional photographer: Body acceptance can be a huge challenge for women with breast cancer. But what if you could feel empowered by the journey depicted on your body? The first artistic representations of breast cancer appeared during the 16th century in the paintings “The Night” by Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and “The Allegory of Fortitude” by Maso da San Friano.15 Today, women with breast cancer are celebrated through photography.16 Posing in front of an artist might be an unforgettable empowering activity, helping you unveil the beauty of your whole self.
Take up new hobbies
When you have breast cancer, you may sometimes find yourself alone for a variety of reasons. But being alone doesn’t necessarily mean feeling lonely, and there are many activities you can do to enjoy life on your own.
Play video games: Video games are a great way to have fun and feel accomplished while at home or the hospital, without physically exhausting yourself. If you play online, you may like spending time virtually with other gamers and belonging to a community.17
Turn to music: You may also enjoy music at home or attend concerts. Beyond the pleasure it provides, a study showed that listening to music 30 minutes before chemotherapy improved patients’ quality of life by reducing vomiting, fatigue, depression, and stress levels.18
And what about learning how to play an instrument or sing with a private teacher at home or online? There is evidence that singing improves mood state, reduces stress levels, and has an effect on the immune system of singers with cancer.19
Learn dancing: Another activity you can do in a group or by yourself is dancing. Did you know that dancing helped women recovering from breast cancer by providing psychosocial and physical benefits?20
Create amazing mocktails: Maintaining social connections is important, and you might want to host friends at yours. If you’re not sure how to spice the party up, alcohol-free cocktails workshops are a simple, tasty, and fun solution.21
Life is a journey that can be enjoyed with breast cancer. So, let’s make the most out of it!
The information provided on this website is not intended to replace professional advice. Please always consult a healthcare professional if you require healthcare advice.
- https://med.stanford.edu/survivingcancer/cancers-existential-questions/cancer-will-to-live.html (Last accessed: July 2021)
- Sztachanska J et al. Using a gratitude intervention to improve the lives of women with breast cancer: a daily diary study. Front. Psychol. 2019; 10:1365.
- https://advancedbreastcancer.net/living/traveling-mbc (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://breastcancernow.org/information-support/facing-breast-cancer/living-beyond-breast-cancer/life-after-breast-cancer-treatment/travelling-abroad-breast-cancer/travel-insurance-after-breast-cancer-diagnosis (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://nancyslist.org/2018/02/04/retreats/ (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://medivizor.com/blog/2016/02/20/free-vacation-or-retreat-for-people-affected-by-cancer/ (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://breastcancerfreebies.com (Last accessed: July 2021)
- Kwiatkowski et al. Long term improved quality of life by a 2-week group physical and educational intervention shortly after breast cancer chemotherapy completion. Results of the ‘Programme of Accompanying women after breast Cancer treatment completion in Thermal resorts’ (PACThe) randomised clinical trial of 251 patients. Eur J Cancer. 2013; 49(7):1530-8.
- https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/seasonal/skin_care (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/get-help/emotional-help/local-support-groups (Last accessed: August 2021)
- https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/breast-cancer-sex-life (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/intimacy/single (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://www.curetoday.com/view/in-sickness-and-in-health-dating-apps-in-the-cancer-world (Last accessed: August 2021)
- https://www.curetoday.com/view/in-sickness-and-in-health-dating-apps-in-the-cancer-world (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ealiest-images-breast-cancer-found-renaissance-paintings-180968325/ (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://www.romper.com/p/11-photos-of-women-with-double-mastectomies-that-show-the-beauty-in-bravery-19194520 (Last accessed: July 2021)
- https://tech.fb.com/after-battling-cancer-gaming-creator-dimez-gives-back-to-those-in-need/ (Last accessed: July 2021)
- Uchoa Lima T et al. Impact of a music intervention on quality of life in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy: a randomized clinical trial. Integr Cancer Ther. 2020; 19:1534735420938430.
- Fancourt D et al. Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carer. Ecancer. 2016; 10:631.
- Karkou V et al. Dancing With Health: Quality of Life and Physical Improvements From an EU Collaborative Dance Programme With Women Following Breast Cancer Treatment. Front. Psychol. 2021; 12:635578.
- https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/alcohol (Last accessed: July 2021)
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