Lifestyle and attitude changes

A life-threatening illness is a major life event. Some people try to continue their lives in the same way as before, others try to change how they will live in future. Some people we talked to had decided to try to live healthier lives to have the best chance of avoiding a recurrence of their cancer and living to old age. Many therefore adopted a healthier diet by eating more fruit and vegetables and other foods rich in antioxidants, and less alcohol, caffeine, processed food and red meat. Other changes that people hoped would improve their health included eating organic food, taking vitamin and mineral supplements or drinking more water. Some people treated themselves to more cakes and desserts than usual during treatment because they thought they might die from their lymphoma but said that if they achieved remission they would then eat more healthily.

Some people had stopped smoking to improve their general health; one woman was 'thrilled' to have managed to stop. Others were looking at ways to take more exercise. Some tried to rest more or pace themselves. One was looking for ways to reduce stress and relax more. Another said he and his wife had bought a weekend cottage in the country to escape their stressful lives. They moved to the country full-time when he had to give up work through illness, which much improved their quality of life. Some people took up new hobbies such as sailing, singing or learning a language. One woman said she intended to do voluntary work.

Some people had to give up certain activities because they had not regained the level of fitness and stamina they had before the illness. Some gave up sporting activities, one gave up his motorbike, others needed to take more rest (see 'Recovery, remissions and follow-up'). One woman had felt the cold more since her illness. Some people changed their lifestyle because of health problems other than their lymphoma.

Many people also found that having cancer changed their attitude to life. Many came to value what was important in life, and to be more tolerant and less selfish. Some said they had learned more about themselves and found a strength they didn't know they had, making them more confident and better able to deal with problems. Several said they lived for today and took opportunities to do things now that they might otherwise have put off until later. A man who was a GP said his lymphoma experience had given him valuable insights into what it was like to be a patient that would influence his professional practice. Some people said it had changed their career plans or made them want to help others. A few had joined the Lymphoma Association's 'buddy' scheme, which puts people with lymphoma in touch with each other as a means of support (see 'Resources' section).

One woman's attitude had changed in an unusual way' as well as becoming intolerant of minor illnesses she had become relatively unsympathetic to other people's cancer diagnoses because she knew they could be treated and many would survive. A woman who had Hodgkin lymphoma as a teenager and non-Hodgkin lymphoma twenty years later said that, beyond realising that there is a life outside work, her illness experiences had not changed her attitude to life.

Last reviewed February 2016.

Last updated February 2016.

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