Cold weather never bothered me before cancer. My body would just naturally adjust on its own, and all was well. After cancer has been an entirely different story, and as the temperatures drop below 40F, my body just wants to grind to a halt on me. Most of this has been due to chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, as almost all of the symptoms that I have from this such as nerve pain, numbness, and muscle fatigue and weakness issues, all get worse in cold weather. As a testicular cancer survivor, even my testosterone levels would tend to swing around on me as energy levels dropped, and in the cold winter months I'd feel like a lethargic, depressive, and asexual lump. My quality of life was miserable, and I just couldn't bear it anymore. I started to make some changes, and have the following cold weather survival tips.
Keep Your Body Moving
I've found over the years that regular vigorous exercise is one of the best possible things you can do for yourself as a cancer survivor, especially during cold weather. No matter how awful I'd been feeling, getting out for a walk or run or whatever I could manage that day would make a world of difference, and I'd always feel so much better after. Regular exercise not only helped to reduce the pain I felt all over my body, but kept my energy levels up, my hormones where they ought to be, and my body humming. Keep your body moving.
- Try to Maintain a Healthy Diet
From Thanksgiving through the New Year, we're inundated with all sorts of sweet temptations. When our bodies are already struggling, dealing with the ups and downs of too much sugary foods in our diets will make things even worse. Feel free to indulge a little, because otherwise you'll feel like you're missing out, but try not to go too overboard. All things in moderation. Perhaps just one or two of those holiday cookies, rather than a plate full.
- Get Some Sun and Fresh Air at Lunch
Break the cabin fever cycle, and get outside at lunch for some sun and fresh air. Even before cancer, I was one to suffer from mild seasonal depressions. There's nothing I've hated more than heading to work in the dark, and heading for home in the evening with the sun already down. It makes me feel trapped when I've already felt trapped by the history of cancer in my life. That hour of sun in the middle of the day when it's warmer wasn't just a burst of solar power and some fresh air, it was a taste of freedom that I needed, and helped to make a difference. Dress appropriately, and you won't feel the cold, either!
- Stay In Your Coping Routines
We all need to develop coping routines to get through our cancer fights and the survivorship years after. Just because it's the holiday season and we're all extra busy and stressed doesn't mean that you should cut these routines short, or drop out of them entirely. If anything, times of stress are when you need these coping routines the most! Some of my worst post-cancer meltdowns have all occurred in the winter months on the run up to the holidays, not just because of my own stress, but because of the stress of everyone else that's surrounded me. Refuse to budge, and stay in these routines. This is when they could be the most important!
- Plan a Trip Somewhere after the Holidays
We can all get a case of the post-holiday blues. Why not plan a trip to somewhere either warm, fun, or both, to break up the cold misery of winter? Especially after the peak of the holidays are over, there's always deals to be found somewhere. The planning and anticipation will keep you engaged, and you'll have a great time while on your getaway. Before you know it it will be March, the days will be getting noticeably longer again, and warmer weather and spring will be right around the corner.
Congrats! You've made it!