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
“You might be used to doing everything and taking care of everyone, but you need to let people take care of you. It was very hard for me to do this in the beginning, but I’ve learned that my friends and family feel blessed when they’re able to help me clean or vacuum or bring over a meal.” —Sharon Coulter
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 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
Focus on What Matters
“I’ve gotten through tough times by focusing on my three F’s: My family, those who support me emotionally, even when they don’t understand the medical nitty-gritty. My faith, which I’ve learned to trust. And my friends—I learned to let them be a part of the journey with me. On all counts, it’s a tremendous blessing to know I’m not alone.” —Rosylin Weston
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
Do Something That Makes You Feel Beautiful
“For me, it’s not easy waking up to a bald head with no brows. I’ve learned that when I look good, I feel good. I’ve become really good at drawing on my brows and finding wigs. This gives me a semblance of my pre-cancer days. My beauty routine has improved my confidence and my attitude.” —Shavon Murrell
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
*Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
Originally Appeared on Glamour