Summer is upon us! It is a time of fun, celebration, and activities. When you have lung cancer, you may feel summer is more challenging than enjoyable. However, you can still make the most of the sunniest season, even with cancer, with these tips of how to take care of yourself while enjoying some summer fun.
Protect Your Skin.
Even without lung cancer, we should be protecting our skin from the sun’s powerful rays in the summer. However, many lung cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can cause photosensitivity, which makes your skin more susceptible to the harmful effects of those sunrays.
Tip: Limit your time in the sun, specifically between 10am and 3pm when the sun is the strongest. If you must be outside, try to find shade when you can and always wear sunscreen that it is waterproof and SPF 30 or higher, even if you are only going for a walk or running errands. Wear dark or bright colors, which will protect your skin from the sun better than lighter colors. If you have lost your hair due to chemo, be sure to wear a hat or scarf to protect your head.
It can be difficult to remember to stay hydrated on the best of days, but it is of particular importance on hot summer days. Many don’t realize how much water is lost through sweat. It’s most difficult to realize how much water you are losing when you are at the beach or pool and sweating in the water. Many cancer treatments have side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea, which may also cause dehydration. Some signs of dehydration include thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, cramped muscles, very dark urine, dizziness, or headaches.
Tip: Drink before you become thirsty. Bring a small cooler of beverages with you to the pool, park, or playground. Bring a water bottle to barbeques and carry it with you as a reminder to drink. Satisfy your thirst and cool down your body with iced fluids, such as popsicles or ice cubes.
For more tips on staying hydrated, check out our blog How to Hydrate.
It’s important to stay cool to avoid heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Many cancer treatments can cause hot flashes, which will be exacerbated in the heat of the summer. Heat can also lead to excessive sweating, which can dehydrate you more quickly. It is essential to find ways to keep cool to avoid this.
Tip: Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen. If you have lost your hair due to chemo, pick a synthetic-hair wig rather than human-hair wig, which lets your head breathe better. Also consider choosing a scarf or turban instead, which will help keep you cooler. Drink non-alcoholic iced beverages, which will keep you cool and hydrated.
Barbeque and cook-out foods are delicious. However, they aren’t always packed with enough nutrients for those battling lung cancer. It’s important to continue to feed your body with healthy, clean foods, even while enjoying summer fun.
Tip: Choose leaner protein options, such as chicken breasts, seafood, turkey sausage, or veggie burgers, healthy alternatives to the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs. Pair your protein with robust vegetable options, like grilled zucchini or asparagus. If possible, bring a healthy addition to any potluck, such as fresh salad or fruits. If you are worried there will be limited healthy option, try nutrient-loading before the event with a fruit smoothie.
Cook-out foods are also often left in unideal environments for longer than recommended, which could lead to bacteria. Lung cancer patients, who often have low white cell counts from treatment, are more susceptible to food-borne bacteria and need to be wary of food that is left in heat for long periods of time.
Tip: Be sure all food is cooked thoroughly before consuming. Consume any perishable food within two hours of it being out in room temperature and within an hour of it being out in heat. Serve cold dishes on a bed of ice to help them stay fresh longer.
For more tips, check out our blog, 8 Tips for Safer Summer Foods.
There are so many fun, active activities to do in the summer, and lung cancer does not have to put an end to this! Moderate physical activity is beneficial for patients; it can help improve quality of life, elevate mood, lessen fatigue, and perhaps even spur recovery. Some of summer’s favorite pastimes, such as hiking or swimming, are not only okay, but encouraged.
Tip: Swimming, walking, and yoga are some of the best ways to exercise for lung cancer patients because they are moderate and low-impact. Find a shaded path to hike to enjoy a scenic view and the great outdoors. Swim in clean, cool pools. Pick a yoga class that offers outdoor sessions, either in the early morning or evenings.
While it’s important to enjoy summer, it’s also essential you know and listen to your own body. It’s always a good idea to discuss with your doctor if you plan on engaging in strenuous activities. If you begin to feel worse than usual, even after resting and recharging, check in with your doctor. Be sure to take some time to rest between busy, active days.