When you’re suffering through the side effects of cancer treatment, you’ll do anything to find relief — or at least you would if you could afford it. Unfortunately for many cancer patients, cost is exactly where they run into trouble. Cancer treatment in the U.S. is extraordinarily expensive, with 42.4% of patients exhausting their life savings within two years of diagnosis. This makes it hard to cover necessities like food and bills, let alone those so-called “luxuries” that make life easier.
However, that doesn’t mean cancer patients are totally out of luck. Even on a limited budget, you have options for improving your health and well-being. Today, Lazarex Cancer Foundation outlines some great, inexpensive ways you can feel better while fighting nausea, pain, fatigue, and other unpleasant cancer treatment side effects.
A lot of cancer patients say that, after treatment, everything tastes metallic. Known as chemo mouth, this side effect can make your most-loved dishes and even plain water taste unpleasant. Experts recommend avoiding favorite foods during this time to avoid developing negative associations, but if you’re struggling to eat and drink anything, try these low-cost tricks:
- Add lemon to improve the taste of metallic water and maple syrup for metallic food.
- Use lemon juice to balance foods that taste too sweet or salty.
- If food tastes like cardboard, add sea salt.
Nausea makes it hard to eat big meals and keep them down. Some cancer patients rely on nutritional shakes to keep their nutrition up, but these can be expensive. Instead, eat high-calorie, high-protein snacks frequently throughout the day to ensure you’re getting enough nutrition. Nuts and nut butters, beans, full-fat yogurt, eggs, butter, and coconut oil are inexpensive calorie-boosting ingredients to include.
Unfortunately, even cheap ingredients can be tough to afford when you’re dealing with the high costs of cancer treatment. If you’re having trouble affording groceries, apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to see if you qualify for food benefits. Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for other financial assistance such as Medicaid, Social Security disability, or pharmaceutical assistance as well.
Most cancer patients feel better when they stay active, but exercise can feel impossible when you’re dealing with fatigue, nausea, and other treatment side effects. You may even be experiencing peripheral neuropathy related to treatment, making some exercise dangerous.
Stretching is an easy way to keep your body moving through cancer treatment, and since it’s safe and simple to do at home, you don’t need to worry about paying for gym memberships or personal trainers. Cancer Council NSW recommends some basic stretches to start with. Do the stretches seated if you’re not comfortable standing.
Massage is beneficial to cancer patients’ moods, energy levels, and overall sense of well-being, especially patients with breast cancer. However, at $50-$80 an hour, regular massages are hard to fit into a limited budget. Luckily, you don’t have to pay full price: The Penny Hoarder recommends using a massage subscription service to save on such an indulgence. Your insurance may also cover a few sessions. Self-care items that you can use at home will also go a long way in keeping you comfortable and pain-free.
Speaking of home, do what you can to keep your home life optimized for wellness and positivity. The goal is for your home to be an oasis of calm, regardless of what’s happening outside – or at the hospital.
Night sweats and hot flashes can be a side effect of cancer drugs or a symptom of certain cancers. Throw in the itchiness and discomfort of hair loss, as well as overheating, and you may find that sleeping is not when you have cancer is not as restful as it could — and should — be. Replacing bedding made of polyester or other synthetic fibers with sheets made with cotton, linen, or bamboo can help you cool down at night. Wearing a wig will also increase your comfort and boost your self-esteem. Depending on your Medicare plan, you may be covered for one.
If you’re really struggling to afford the things you need to stay healthy during cancer treatment, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of the time, friends and family want to help, they just don’t know what to do. By telling your loved ones what you need, you can get a hand with the little stuff so you can focus on getting better.
At Lazarex Cancer Foundation, we strive to improve cancer health outcomes, FDA cancer clinical trial diversity and enrollment, and patient access to care by providing assistance with clinical trial navigation, reimbursing trial related travel costs, and partnering with at-risk communities to mobilize resources. We’d love to hear from you!
About the Author: Dana Brown is the creator of Health Conditions, which aims to provide Internet users with helpful content and resources that will lead them to making healthier decisions. Dana has 15 years of caregiving experience, and after seeing some patterns of poor health she became determined to help inform people about healthy living.
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