Maddy is a cancer survivor, diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2018 that found her way into a healthier lifestyle after cancer treatments. She is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach based in Los Angeles who provides coaching programs to help others achieve their health goals through holistic nutrition.
My top 5 recommendations for cancer survivors
I’m Maddy Pollack, Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor, and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and these are my top five recommendations that cancer survivors should be doing once active treatment ends. These recommendations are meant to help you move through this next phase of life.
Survivorship is hard, just because we’re done with treatment, doesn’t mean we bounce back right away. It takes time for our bodies and minds to recover from the trauma that we just went through after our cancer diagnosis, surgery, chemo, and/or radiation. If you’re in this phase now, you may feel scared, lost, confused as to where to start when it comes to taking care of yourself, and frustrated that there’s a lack of guidance. Let me just tell you, you’re not alone - every cancer survivor I’ve ever spoken with has felt this way once treatment ends, including me.
Let’s get into the top five things that helped me after treatment, and help my clients:
Add in anti-inflammatory foods
After treatment of any kind, we tend to have a lot of extra unnecessary inflammation in the body as our bodies are trying to protect us from everything we just put into our bodies. We also likely have extra stress from cancer, which also causes inflammation in the body. Ongoing inflammation is not good for us as it can manifest as joint pain, brain fog, fatigue, pain around scar tissue, irregular hormones, heart disease, and tons of other issues, so it’s important we handle it head-on.
Adding in anti-inflammatory foods can help immensely with reducing this type of inflammation. Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include:
Extra virgin olive oil
Dark leafy greens
Try adding these into your diet at least once per day to help your body flush out the toxins and reduce inflammation.
Reduce refined sugars
We typically all have heard to avoid sugar because “it feeds your cancer.” While that’s not necessarily true, refined sugars do cause inflammation in the body and if we already have additional inflammation from our treatments, then we need to provide an environment where we’re allowing our bodies to heal and reduce it.
That’s why reducing refined sugars is so important, so we’re not adding more inflammation to the body. I always recommend replacing refined sugars (think processed sugars, like candy, chocolate bars, cookies, etc.) with natural sugars, like fruit, dark chocolate (at least 80% cacao), nut butter, etc.) so you can still satisfy the want for something sweet without adding more inflammation in the body.
And there’s always a balance with everything, so rather than needing to cut out sugars entirely, start to think of what a healthy balance could look like. If you find your sugar cravings are super strong, I do recommend cutting it out for 2 weeks to reduce cravings.
Start a regular mindfulness practice to reduce stress
Reducing your stress and anxiety after treatment is key to your healing. We can have ruminating thoughts a lot after treatment around recurrence or if something else bad is going to happen, which is super normal, but there are ways ro reduce it. We need to reduce these thoughts so that we maintain our mental health, but also to reduce inflammation in the body. As stated above, stress also plays a big role in inflammation.
Some of my favorite mindfulness practices, include:
Brain drain (set a timer for 5 mins and journal everything out on paper that comes to your mind)
Mindful walking in nature
By starting a regular practice, you can help your mind come back to the present and reduce anxiety about the past or future.
Prioritize sleep - at least 7-8 hours per night
Sleep is SO IMPORTANT for our overall health, especially after treatment to help our bodies heal and recover. And sleep can be one of the hardest things to do because we’re so stressed and it’s a quiet time where our thoughts can take over.
Create a great sleep routine for yourself that allows you to come back to the present and calm down. I recommend avoiding screens at least 30 mins before sleep as well so that your body can start to understand it’s time to wind down from the day.
What could your nighttime routine look like? Maybe it’s 20 minutes of getting ready (brushing teeth, washing face, etc.), 30 minutes of reading and a 10 minute meditation before you fall asleep. Whatever that is for you, prioritize it as much as you can, even on the nights you don’t want to.
Find community & support
Lastly, but most definitely not least, find community and support with other survivors and people that understand where you’re coming from. Unless you’ve been through cancer, you just don’t get it so it’s important to find support in the cancer community so that you avoid feeling isolated and can connect with people who do understand where you’re coming from.
Be patient with your mind and body after cancer, it takes time to heal and recover from everything you just went through, and know that you’re not alone.