Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, your life has probably been filled with stress for some time now. As time goes by people usually find their level of stress and anxiety decreases, even if it doesn’t completely go away. It will take time and there will be ups and downs - just as everyone’s body is different, so is their ability to cope with stress. It's important that you find ways to cope that work for you and your lifestyle.
Some helpful techniques for relieving stress include:
- Exercise outside and connect with nature
- Spend time with friends and family
- Connect with people on www.mybc.care
- Keep a diary to record your feelings. If you’re feeling unhappy or stressed a lot, speak to your doctor
- Get creative - try painting or drawing
- Escape with a good book or movie
- Try massage therapy
- Do yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. Some people find Reiki beneficial
Maintaining a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your chance of recurrence and helps keep you generally healthy.
Exercising regularly could give you more energy, reduce stress, and improve your overall health. The ten-year breast cancer survival rate is higher in patients who exercise regularly than in patients who don’t, so it pays to get out and get moving. A good goal to aim for is moderate exercise for at least 3-5 hours per week.
BCFNZ provides funding to assist people with breast cancer to take part in exercise rehabilitation programmes (conditions apply). We provide funding for both PINC (formerly known as Pink Pilates), a programme tailored to an individual’s needs during treatment and Next Steps, group-based exercise sessions over ten weeks (suitable for after treatment).
- Buy a new fruit or vegetable every time you go to the supermarket. This will help you eat a variety of food and a variety of nutrients/vitamins.
- Eat whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice. Whole fruit reduces calories, adds fibre and a feeling of fullness.
- Avoid salt cured, pickled or smoked foods.
- Bake or grill food – limit frying.
- Choose whole grain breads.
- Eat more fibre – add vegetables wherever possible, choose high-fibre cereals, use whole grain flour, add kidney beans or black beans to soup and salads.
- Limit your saturated fat intake.
- Avoid trans-fat often found in bought biscuits, crackers, snack foods, fried foods, pastries and other baked goods.
- Avoid processed meats – e.g. sausages, salami. The World Health Organisation says regular consumption of high quantities of these foods has been shown to cause bowel cancer, and there may also be a breast cancer risk.
- Choose lean cuts of meat, fish and poultry.
- Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats such as avocados and olive oil.
A breast cancer diagnosis can have a big impact on your emotional well-being. Remember your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical health, and you might need some support. Having to face cancer is probably one of the most stressful situations you are ever likely to face, and remember, there is no right or wrong way to cope - only what works for you. Give yourself plenty of time to adapt. Be patient and don’t expect too much too soon.
There are also ways to help yourself deal with the emotional strain of living with cancer.
Some of these included practicing mindfulness, emotional awareness, and connecting with others. For more information on these visit or complementary therapies page.
Dealing with challenges
You may face challenges, like accepting the fact that you have cancer; the stresses of medical treatment; changing emotional needs; depression, anxiety, relationship and caregiving strains; coping with pain, insomnia and other symptoms; and much more. Patients and caregivers often need short-term and longer-term support to help with these emotional difficulties and mental health problems.
For anyone with a breast cancer diagnosis, there is free counselling available funded through NZ Breast Cancer Foundation. For more information and a referral form, visit the free counselling page
If you would like to speak to others with breast cancer, join the mybc breast cancer community. Register online or download the app on your phone.
Andrea Fairbairn, who’s had breast cancer twice, shares 33 tips to living life after breast cancer. From managing your health in recovery to celebrating your life, the book’s goal is to help you rebuild your life in a positive way. Download the free e-book.