The A-Z of distracting yourself during cancer treatment

 In Breast cancer, Hospital life

INGA Wellbeing would like to thank Sara of Ticking Off Breast Cancer for her perfect recommendations of the best ways to distract yourself through cancer treatments:

It is undeniable that cancer treatment is tough. It can be harsh, unpleasant, difficult, upsetting, and painful. It can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. A lot of the time, you are at home feeling, quite frankly, rotten. At other times, you may feel a bit brighter and able to get up and about. How ever you are feeling, it is important to keep busy (whether your mind and/or your body) by doing things to take your mind off the treatment and all the scary thoughts that a cancer diagnosis brings with it.

So here is a quick A to Z of distractions. Just a simple list.

A: Audio books

Audio books are brilliant because you can listen to them anywhere: at hospital, having chemo, recovering from surgery, when dealing with the chemo fall-out or in the car on the way to medical appointments. They are an excellent way of distracting yourself from the worry that cancer brings.

B: Boxsets and blogs  

Boxsets are ideal for those days during chemo when you just cannot move from the sofa or bed: there are so many brilliant boxsets on various streaming services. There is literally something for everyone (take a look at my blog on boxsets for some suggestions). Blogging: why not start writing about your experience and start up your own blog? Not only will you be helping others who are going through the same experience but writing about your experience is an extremely therapeutic way to deal with how you feel about your cancer diagnosis.

C: Clothing, cupboards, crafts and cooking

Make sure you have the perfect clothing to allow yourself to feel comfortable and relaxed, even on treatment or in-patient days.  Take a look at INGA Wellbeing’s adapted clothing collection as an option for days when you are connected to IVs or having to cope with drains etc. Then take on the three C’s. Sort out those cupboards that have needed a clear out for years, get going on some crafts like knitting and sewing, and cook – experiment with healthy recipes, bake a cake, make some meals for your freezer for those days when you can’t cook.

D: Do a crossword or other puzzle

For those people going through chemotherapy, one of the side effects is chemo-brain. Doing crosswords and other similar puzzles can help keep the brain cells active in addition to providing a super distraction.

E: Exercise

Exercise, exercise, exercise! This is the all-round winner of the distraction list: it can help take your mind off your cancer and it can help you to feel better.

F: Films

Like boxsets, watching a film when you are having a sofa day, can transport you from real life to a whole other world. There are so many films to choose from: the golden oldies, chick-flicks, rom-coms, thrillers, detective dramas, the list goes on.

G: Gardening

If you have a garden, back yard, balcony or window box why not potter around with some plants, flowers or vegetables? This is especially nice to do now that we are entering spring and the weather is brightening up. A great way to get some fresh air and little bit of exercise.

H: Home decorations

Yes, I know that during cancer treatment is not the time for redecorating the house, but it could be the time for planning how you will redecorate once treatment is over and you are feeling better. Looking in magazines and online at beautiful homes, furniture, bathrooms and kitchens is the perfect way to stop thinking about cancer.

I: Invite people to visit for a cup of tea

Don’t wait for people to offer to visit: a lot of people don’t know how to act around a cancer patient and they don’t want to intrude. If you feel up to it, invite a friend over for a cuppa and a natter – of course to talk about all sorts of non-cancer things.

J: Journals and Jigsaws

Keep a journal. This may not strictly be a distraction from cancer and treatment, but writing can be so soothing and you may find it helps with how you deal with your cancer diagnosis. And do a jigsaw – get one of the really difficult ones with 1000’s of pieces that you can start and work on over the course of a few weeks. Take my word for it – doing a jigsaw will soon take your mind off cancer.

K: Kids

Spend time with the kids. Depending on your energy levels, get involved with them: watching family films, playing boards games, reading together or just sitting and talking to them. Children have an amazing way of keeping us grounded during hard times – just by being themselves.

L: Learn something new

Put this prolonged period of time to use and learn something new. Whether an instrument, a language (you can get some excellent audio language courses to listen to while lying in bed) or a new skill. Using YouTube, I taught myself how to build a website and created

M: Make holiday plans

Why not plan a holiday for the end of treatment, or for midway through treatment if your oncologist allows it? Whilst taking into account any constraints associated with cancer treatment (take a look at the holidaying section on Ticking Off Breast Cancer) you could plan something really lovely to look forward to.

N: Novel

Maybe now is the time to start writing that novel that you have always planned to write. Cancer treatment can really slow us down and stop us from getting on with normal day to day life. Perhaps put this slow-down to good use and get those ideas onto paper?

O: Outdoors

Go outdoors. Whether it is walking, gardening, cycling or just sitting, get out there. Fresh air, vitamin D and being around nature are all reasons for spending time outside.

P: Podcasts

If you are not up to watching the TV or reading a book but you fancy something to entertain you then why not try a podcast. These are sort of mini radio shows and are available online. The BBC have a stack of podcasts on their website to choose from – just head there and have a browse around.

Q: Quidditch

Ok, so I am stuck when it comes to suggesting a distracting activity beginning with ‘Q’, but you could read the Harry Potter books and watch the films.

R: Reading

And, of course, a good book is an excellent way to pass the time. For some book suggestions take a look at The Thing About Reading…

S: Sort out your photos

If, like me, you have stacks of photos stored on various devices and on various clouds, then you could take this time to have a good sort out and even order some of those photo books where you design your layout and choose the photos to include.

T: Talk

Talk to people. Don’t sit at home alone all the time. Talk to people about your cancer worries: a counsellor, a support line, an online cancer support group or a good friend. But also talk to people about non-cancer things – get the latest news from friends and family, offer an ear to listen to their own problems and talk to friends who live far afield and whom you may not have had the chance to talk to for a while. One of my oldest and dearest friends regularly phoned me during my treatment which was lovely because we hadn’t seen much of each other over the past few years so we were able to properly catch up with each other.

U: Update

Update anything that needs updating. All the things that you have meant to update for a while but just haven’t gotten around to doing: computer software, new bedsheets, your glasses, clothes, mobile phone or washing machine. Those updating jobs that never get done because life is just too busy.

V: Visit somewhere new

There will be days when you feel brighter and have a little more energy. Why not try to get out of the house and visit somewhere that you have not been before. Perhaps ask a friend to go with you: a museum, art gallery, the beach, a café or a park. A change of scene.

W: Walking

Walking is wonderful. You will get the benefit of some gentle exercise, some fresh air and if you have a friend or family member with you, then you can enjoy the conversation. I have written about the benefits of walking during cancer treatment for my blog – there are many!

X: X marks the spot

Have you heard of geocaching? It is a great way to get and enjoy the outdoors although it is certainly an activity for when you are feeling more energetic.

Y: Yoga

Try yoga and other relaxation techniques such as reiki, meditation and mindfulness. You can do these at home: there are many online courses, videos and aps. Some cancer support centres offer these for free so it is worth checking whether this is available near you. Read more about relaxation techniques on Ticking Off Breast Cancer.

Z: Zorbing and zipwires

No, not really. Just kidding.

Sara is the founder of, a website dedicated to helping people through their breast cancer treatment from diagnosis to living life to the full once treatment ends. Aged 42 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sara decided to set up the website to help support those who do not know which way to turn for help after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis; those who are overwhelmed by the online support for breast cancer; those who may be scared to go online for fear of what they might find; and those just looking for a comfortable, safe, easy-to-navigate online resource. The website provides practical advice for each step of the way, together with many links and signposts to other online resources. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



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