What can I do to help myself?

Many people feel there is nothing they can do when they are told they have cancer. They feel out of control and helpless for a while. However, there are practical ways you can help yourself.

Diet and food safety

A balanced, nutritious diet will help to keep you as well as possible and cope with any side effects of treatment. The Cancer Society’s booklet called Eating Well during Cancer Treatment/Kia Pai te Kai i te wā Maimoatanga Matepukupuku gives useful advice and recipes. Phone your local Cancer Society office for a copy of this booklet, call the cancer nurses on the Cancer Information Helpline 0800 CANCER (226 237), or download it from our website. The hospital will also have a dietitian who can help.

A woman cutting vegetables

Food safety is of special concern to cancer patients, especially during treatment which may suppress immune function. To make food as safe as possible it is recommended that patients follow the guidelines below:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating.
  • Keep all aspects of food preparation clean, including washing hands before preparing food and washing fruit and vegetables.
  • Handle raw meat, fish, poultry, and eggs with care and clean thoroughly any surfaces that have been in contact with these foods.
  • Keep raw meats separate from cooked food.
  • Cook meat, poultry, and fish thoroughly and use pasteurised milk and juices.
  • Cover and refrigerate food promptly to minimise bacterial growth.
  • When eating in restaurants, avoid foods that may have bacterial contamination, such as salads, sushi, and raw or undercooked meats, fish, poultry, and eggs.
  • If there is any concern about the purity of your water (for example, if you have well water), have it checked for bacterial content.


Many people find regular exercise helps. Research has shown that people who do regular exercise cope better with their treatment. Discuss with your cancer doctor what is best for you.

A woman walking with a pram

Relaxation techniques

Some people find relaxation or meditation helps them to feel better. The hospital social worker, cancer nurse, or local Cancer Society will know whether the hospital runs any relaxation programmes, or may be able to advise you on local community programmes. You may find yoga, tai chi, or meditation help you to relax.

Seeking advice from health professionals

If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about your treatment, it is important that you discuss any concerns with those involved in your care, including your GP.

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