Metastatic Breast Cancer: 12 Ways to Practice Self Care After a Stage IV Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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Written By Paklay Zablay

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A metastatic breast cancer diagnosis comes hand-in-hand with a team of professionals who will tend to your physical health—but it’s important to keep your mental health in check, too. Below, women who are living with stage IV breast cancer share how they’ve incorporated self-care into their routines.

Ask All the Experts

“What you put into your body does impact the way you feel, so feed it well. I met with a nutritionist who suggested a plant-based meal plan. I also sought out a physical therapist, who gave me a low-impact exercise routine. I took a meditation class, participated in a meditation study, and went for an oncology massage. My doctor told me to consult an integrative medicine specialist, and I am so glad I did. There’s definitely something to feeding your mind, body, and spirit. —Denise Hanti

Don’t Act Your Age

“My spirit lights up today, at 45, from many of the same things that brought me joy as a kid. This summer I danced under a rainbow, did countless arts and crafts projects, and giggled endlessly with my young nephew and nieces. I wear bracelets that read brave, love, and grateful. My socks have rainbows, hearts, or unicorns, and my sneakers have glitter. It’s nearly impossible for me to look at my wrists or my feet and not smile. Even if I can’t choose my health journey, I can still choose to keep my spirit light.” —Sally Wolf

Move: It’s Good for Your Bones

I’ve been living with metastatic breast cancer for 18 years and have found that consistent exercise—such as walking or yoga—has been great for my bone health. —Terlisa Sheppard

(Editor’s note: Consult your health care professional before starting a fitness program.)

Connect With Your Body

“My body is scarred—but in many ways, it’s more vibrant and alive than ever. There’s no place I feel this more than in my Monday dance class, which I attended consistently throughout my early-stage surgeries and rounds of chemo, and which I now especially treasure as I navigate the combined uncertainties of metastatic cancer and a global pandemic. For all of the anxiety I hold in my brain, my body moves without inhibition, processing all the darker emotions like fear and sadness so that I can feel and release them.” —S.W.

Establish a Support Group

“My top tip is to overdose on support—even if you don’t think you need it. Also, be gracious with yourself. Engage in mindfulness. Make yourself a priority, and nurture yourself as needed. Self-care isn’t selfish.” —Jamil Rivers

Let Go of the Worry

“When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer three months after my wedding, I was devastated. I was getting scans every three months, and living my life between them with a lot of anxiety and stress. Next February will mark five years since my diagnosis; I’ve learned since then that the best way to take care of myself is to let go of the worry. Worrying will not change my outcomes, and days spent worrying are wasted.” —Katy Bell

Fill Your Days With Things You Love

“Since my diagnosis five years ago, I’ve continued to live a full and meaningful life. I start my days in private with prayer and meditation. I enjoy baking, I walk 2.1 miles at least five days a week, and I am active in my community. I also speak at breast cancer awareness events, which feels liberating.” —Karen Stock

Tune Out the Negatives

“Surround yourself with positive people. If there are negative people you can’t avoid, like family members, seek out others who will lift you up. If your friends aren’t doing that then find a therapist, counselor, or pastor. You can cast a wider net by taking a class, joining a bible study group, or even listening to an uplifting podcast, like Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. —D.H.

Find a New Purpose

“Metastatic breast cancer took my hard-earned career and my dreams and aspirations. I had an identity crisis. I didn’t know who I was anymore. But I found myself again by finding a new purpose in life. Now, I’m an advocate for women living with metastatic breast cancer. I also wrote a book, When Life Hands You Cactuses, Make Margaritas, to make sure my son knows that his mom did everything in her power not to leave him. It’s now the legacy I’ll leave behind.” —Adiba Barney

Make a Living List

“It’s easy to get caught up in the statistics of this disease. It’s unavoidable at some point to ruminate on what it means to have a terminal illness with a three- to five-year life expectancy. To redirect negative thoughts, which I still have, you can make a living list of the smallest or biggest goals for yourself. A living list goal can be trying a fancy restaurant you’ve always wanted to go to. Or visiting a state you’ve never been to before, or going sky diving, or starting a podcast, or taking the trip of a lifetime. It can cost nothing or it can take some saving and planning for, but either way, it’s a great way to redirect your thoughts of cancer toward something positive and exciting.” —Cassie Romano

Rest and Nourish Your Body as Much as Possible

“After my stage II diagnosis, I practiced self-care by exercising, going on walks with my daughter, and eating nutrient-dense foods. After my stage IV diagnosis, my self-care shifted a bit to focus on a more restful recovery. I practiced self-care with regular naps/resting, downtime with friends and family, massage, and physical therapy.” —Kristin Kubicki

Do Things That Fill Your Cup

“I set a goal a long time ago to see all 50 states, which I expedited when I was diagnosed. I brought my 8- and 10-year-old daughters and my husband along with me. It’s a great way to escape the reality of cancer and enjoy just being with family and all this beautiful country has to offer. As I crossed into Colorado this summer, my 50th state, I cried tears of joy and reminded myself that I can always beat the odds. I was able to take some hikes with my girls which had me thinking back to when I was diagnosed and had emergency surgery on my spine and I couldn’t even get out of bed or go down the stairs on my own. I’ve come a long way and as long I keep fighting and more research keeps happening, I could be alive to see the cure. I also do yoga and meditation to help calm my mind and take walks. I think being in nature helps a lot.” —Tara Kuipers

Kim Peiffer is a journalist who writes about style, health, and wellness. She taps into a broad network of doctors, scientists, and medical experts to write in-depth service articles for leading publications.

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