Aug 19, 2017

My 5 top tips to healing your body after chemo





1. DON'T RUSH IT

It takes time to feel better, please remember that.
I thought I'd feel fine after a few weeks of finishing chemo. I had 25 rounds of radiation after my chemo finished, which as I've said before, just about finished me off. I handled chemo pretty well, but radiation really seemed to screw with my body. I don't know if it's because I was so weak because of the chemo but yeah. It was horrendous. The fatigue took at least six months to ease off.

But because I was so desperate to feel better, I got quite down thinking I would always be sick and tired, I would be upset that my body was 'damaged' and felt so much older than I was. I was focusing on how bad I was feeling and not celebrating the small milestones I was making each week.

But 9 months has gone past since I finished chemo and I can honestly say, I feel really good, and really healthy now.

It's important to give yourself credit to what your body has actually been through, you have in effect been poisoned. While all those cancer cells were being destroyed, so many of your healthy cells were being affected and destroyed too and it takes a long time to rebuild your body back to a place of health.

I was scared that because my hair was coming back and no longer getting chemo, people would think I should be better. I didn't want to appear lazy or like I was wallowing in self pity. I kind of went above and beyond to make people see how hard I was working on my business and every other aspect of my life to prove that I was a trooper or something ridiculous, but that just leads to burnout and feeling stressed and even more annoyed that you don't feel better. Also, it doesn't matter what people think, if you get judged for not bouncing back from cancer straight away, then you don't need assholes like that in your life anyway.

So I just stopped. I decided I needed to take things easy.

On a day to day basis I would try and get the most important things that needed to be done in the morning, whilst I had the most energy. But for months it would hit 1pm and I would feel like I had run a marathon. That's the time to listen to your body. I'd sit down with a book or a drawing and rest my body for a good couple of hours, before I had to pick the kids up and get dinner on.

I feel like resting your body is the most important step in order to heal.

2. DETOX

Get rid of those chemicals in your system!

The best way to do this is to up your water intake. Flush them all out. The moment I got dehydrated would be the moment I crashed as well. I also started going to the saunas to sweat out some of the toxins in my system, even trying an infra-red sauna which is said to release up to 20% of your body's toxins. It works by heating up your internal organs (which sounds pretty scary I know) but I was willing to try it with the amount of drugs I had in my system, and radiation and found it really effective.

Adding antioxidants into your diet is a great way to detox too. Blueberries are amazing for this, so most days I eat handfuls of them and make a blueberry smoothie for breakfast.

Other great antioxidants are -

grapes,
red berries,
dark green cruciferous vegetables,
spinach,
green tea,
kidney beans



3. MOVE

For ages my body just hurt. From the mastectomy, from the treatment. Literally the last thing I ever wanted to do was exercise. But whilst rebelling against exercise feels nice for a little while, it ends up making you feel so much worse.

It wasn't until I started doing (gentle) exercise that I really started to feel physically better.

I started off with just stretching every day, just to start my body moving again. Then I would try and walk the dog for half an hour and build up to jogging along with her and a few times a week I do a mini workout where I do some yoga and some squats and stuff.

I'm never going to be a person who loves exercising, I'm never going to love the gym. But I love the way I feel after I exercise and I know how vital it is for my recovery by just doing a little every day.

4. SELF CARE

I can't emphasize how important taking time for self care is for your physical but even more importantly, mental health.

I poured myself into working and 'catching up' on all the things I hadn't been able to do whilst I was going through treatment and didn't spend any time on self care. I ended up feeling ugly, like I'd really let myself go, then guilty for feeling like that.

It's amazing how spending half an hour to sit and do your nails, or take a long bath and exfoliate, or even just moisturising your body every day can help you get back to feeling confident and in sync with yourself again.

My favourite self care thing to do though is just sit down with a cup of tea and a good book.

Taken at sunrise on our recent holiday in the Sunshine Coast





5. NUTRITION

I'm not about to suggest you quit sugar or do a juice cleanse (feel free to do that if you want) but simply, having a balanced diet and eating a lot of vegetables is what I do.

I eat a lot of chocolate and a lot of bread but you know what, it genuinely makes me happy and I know for a fact, eating a bit of chocolate isn't what causes cancer. I just make sure to eat spinach, broccoli, blueberries every single day. I also like to eat things like sweet potato, zucchini noodles, apples, oranges and other fruit and veg. and incorporate as much healthy, organic food into every meal.

Eating organic is particularly important because you really want to reduce the amount of chemicals you are putting into your body, it's a good idea to check your skincare products as well. I only use natural organic body products, making especially sure everything is paraben free.

Yummy coconut flour pancakes with blueberries
I don't feel guilty for indulging in my favourite foods, lets face it, food is one of lifes greatest joys!
But making sure you're getting nutrients and fueling your body for healing is extremely important.

Also, I would recommend getting a full blood test and taking it to a naturopath. There's a lot of things you may be deficient in after chemo. I was deficient in Vitamin D, which is vital for protecting against cancer returning, also I needed extra calcium.
So I got a vitamin D supplement and added more calcium into my diet. Your naturopath will help you with meal ideas to incorporate foods you need to eat more of.



A photo of a sunrise from the trip we recently took in the Sunshine Coast to celebrate my 30th birthday.


I hope these are helpful tips for some of you who have had the misfortune of going through chemo.
Take care of yourself and praise yourself for how strong you are, and how far you have come.

Love Hayley xx


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