3 Ways to Rebuild Strength After Cancer

3 Ways to Rebuild Strength After Cancer (even when you still feel weak)

3 Ways to Rebuild Strength After Cancer

(even when you still feel weak)

 3 Ways to Rebuild Strength After Cancer

There are lots of thoughts and feelings that happen after you go through cancer treatment. This article shares 3 Ways to Rebuild Strength After Cancer even when you still feel weak. When you get the ‘all clear’ from doctors and you are in remission (or as I like to say, cancer free), it’s hard to know what to do first:

  • Do a happy dance
  • Kiss someone (preferably someone you know)
  • Yell “I’m cancer free” from the mountain top
  • Go hike a mountain
  • Eat a cheesecake (oops – I meant drink a green smoothie!)
  • Yank the chemotherapy port out (please don’t do this!)
  • Burn the radiation gizmo (in my case the head and neck mask)
  • Go sky diving
  • Go skiing
  • Run a marathon
  • Take a vacation far, far away from any medical facility
  • Start yoga


However, you likely want to do some of the above in your head but your physical body is likely saying something along the lines of:

  • I need a very long nap
  • I need to move carefully so my boob doesn’t fall out
  • This damn wig is hot and itchy
  • It would be nice if the window across the room was open
  • I’m cold
  • I’m hot
  • I’m nauseous
  • I’m carrying a vomit bag around
  • I’m in pain
  • I can’t pick up random things
  • Nothing smells or tastes good
  • I can’t remember crap I used to remember
  • Nothing fits anymore

That’s just the beginning! People ask me all the time, “Tandy, how long does it take to regain your strength after cancer?” My reply is almost always, “Everyone responds differently to treatment and recovery. I find it’s a very personal experience.” In my case, it took a good 9-12 months for me to feel like my old self. I know some people feel back to normal after 6 months and others take 2 years before they feel back to ‘normal’. A few people felt like a bundle of energy after a few months.


There are so many things I could say about how to rebuild your strength after cancer. The biggest thing to remember is that it takes time to recover from treatment. During this time, take extra care of your body.

Here are three (3) of my favorite ways to rebuild strength; even when you still feel weak:


1.Do some form of exercise for any amount of time. Be gentle with yourself here.

You likely won’t be at pre-cancer workout standards at first. Climbing stairs is often a struggle. Your hormones and blood levels are all over the place. Start with walking or chair yoga. Google ‘chair yoga’ and you’ll get thousands of free chair yoga, gentle chair yoga, senior yoga, gentle yoga workouts ranging from 5 minutes – 55 minutes. I lived on the third floor so when I could go up the stairs without stopping or feeling like I was going to pass out, I knew I was making progress.

Go slow and steady! Then, I started yoga and felt fabulous. The first few yoga classes, I stopped several times to rest and then resumed. After a few weeks, I was getting through the gentle classes without stopping. Remember, progress requires imperfect action. Perfection is the enemy of progress. We MUST take imperfect action to make progress.

We MUST take imperfect action to make progress. Click To Tweet

2.We all know we should eat more fruits and veggies, whole grains, less meat, processed food, sugar, etc. so I am not going to go into any of that.

There are endless books and resources on this topic. One such book I recently finished is called: “Stop Battling Disease and Start Building Wellness by Tonijean Kulpinski. It is one of the BEST books I’ve read on wellness. Also, Kris Carr’s blog is full of amazing content on the topic.

Some people poo poo the idea of vitamins and others embrace vitamins. Treatment can really do a number on our physical bodies. It takes time to rebuild all the immune fighting properties our bodies need for a healthy life. If you are an embrace kind of person, here is a suggestion to help with everything needed to rebuild your body. It’s the dōTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack® 

doTerra Lifelong Vitality Pack

As one of doTERRA’s most popular products, doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack is full of essential nutrients, metabolism benefits, and powerful antioxidants designed to help promote energy, health, and lifelong vitality.

The benefits of the Lifelong Vitality Pack include:

  • General wellness and vitality
  • Antioxidant and DNA protection
  • Energy metabolism
  • Bone health
  • Immune function
  • Stress management
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Healthy hair, skin, and nails
  • Eye, brain, nervous system
  • Liver function and digestive health
  • Lung and respiratory health
  • Gentle on stomach
  • Non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free

Here’s more information about this amazing product. https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/product-spotlight-supplements-daily-vitality

3.Take time to evaluate your feelings, your experience and what changes, if any, you will make after your cancer experience.

Many people have a renewed sense of peace about how they want to invest their time after cancer. Click To Tweet

Many people have a renewed sense of peace about how they want to invest their time after cancer. They are crystal clear about their purpose and how they want to live the rest of their life physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Other people are confused or conflicted about their purpose. They aren’t sure what they want to do. Some people have a spiritual awakening or feel like they need to make their cancer mean something. Maybe they want to volunteer or learn more about healthy living or ways to avoid recurrence. Here’s what I know for sure: Cancer has a way of stirring up emotions such as fear, shame, sadness, and uncertainty.

These feelings don’t always just ‘go away’ when cancer is gone. Sure, there is a sense of relief and happiness and that can be followed by fear of recurrence, among other things. It’s important to move through your feelings and allow them to come up and out. Feelings buried alive never, ever die.

When I first became cancer free, I wanted nothing to do with the word ‘cancer’.  I stayed as far away from it as possible. I thought that by resisting the word, I was ensuring it didn’t enter my world again. After a fourth time beating cancer, over time, I embraced my fears of recurrence and came full circle to doing what I love; which is I am here to help others going through cancer have hope, cope with their disease, heal and live a wholehearted life on their terms Click To Tweet.

Here’s some tips to help you move through any feelings you may have:

  1. Take time to write out your thoughts and feelings. Just let things flow. Whatever comes to mind, put pen to paper.
  2. Coloring isn’t just for kids! There are tons of adult coloring books with various themes. Coloring helps me connect to my inner child and creativity. It helps my feelings flow.
  3. Talk to a friend or hire a coach to help you work through the negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, stress or confusion you may feel.
  4. Connect with nature. Nature is so incredibly healing and the vitamin D we get from being with nature is healing in and of itself.
  5. Do something you love to do. Movies, pottery, reading, dancing, painting, karaoke, gardening, star gazing. Whatever it is, invest time in yourself and do it! You’ll be amazed at how great you feel.
  6. Watch funny or inspiring movies. Humor is healing. I made it a point to watch all things comedy. Let humor nurture healing.

I wrote a few other articles on self-care that you can check out here, here and here for more ideas.

Fear is fuel.

The presence of fear is a powerful sign you are trusting in your divine strength.

The above ideas may help you work through emotions. I encourage you to embrace fear. That’s right… embrace it! When you can embrace fear and move through the steps to overcome fearful or worrisome thoughts and feelings, you are well on your way to bouncing forward in life. Here’s a brief overview of my FEAR model:

FEAR Release Method


  1. F – Feel it – When I am sad, afraid, or worried, I am sure to take time and listen to my feelings. I meditate, journal or just simply sit with and by myself and notice what comes up. As a coach, there are various ways I work with clients to get them in this space where they can feel their emotions. I do the same for myself. Of course, I have coaches that help me, too?
  2. E – Engage and allow – This involves engaging all your senses, thoughts and feelings and giving yourself as much time as needed to allow these feelings to come up and out. One of my pet peeves is when someone says, ‘get over it’. I want to throat punch them! We never, ever get over things. We get THROUGH them. Once your mind, body, and spirit are clear with this stage, it’s easier to make better decisions and move forward towards healing.
  3. A – Activate healing through forgiveness – This is the secret sauce. For lasting healing to happen, you need to forgive. You need to forgive yourself and others. The mistake a lot of people make is they skim over or completely forget this part of the releasing process.
  4. R- Release and Relax – When you’ve done the forgiveness work, the last step is to release and relax. How do you know if you’d released the fear? You’ll generally know it when you can talk about the situation without the negative emotion bubbling up.


Be gentle with yourself. Don’t compare your experience with others. Every person and experience is different. When we compare our experience or life in general with others, we are being highly unfair to ourselves because we are looking through the lens of our life experiences with the highlights of someone else’s life. We have NO IDEA what someone else may have gone through in life.

Next time you are worried or fearful, remember this: If 10 people threw all their worries into the middle of a room and you all circled the room, you would likely take YOUR worries back in a heartbeat.

Taking imperfect action in moving through fears and worry is the best way to conquer fear and let it know YOU are in charge. Click To Tweet


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Tandy Elisala

Family Caregiver Coach, Cancer Empowerment Advocate and Chief Inspiration Officer at Center for Inspiring Greatness | Empowered Family Caregiver
Tandy Elisala is passionate about helping family caregivers go from being overwhelmed and stressed to empowered and calm. Tandy went through cancer four times and learned how to heal using conventional, complementary, and alternative therapy. Tandy left her corporate career to take care of both parents simultaneously while raising three kids as a single mom. She took care of both parents for 2 1/2 years until their respective deaths. Tandy now teaches what she learned on her journey. Tandy is a family caregiver coach, a multiple best-selling author, inspirational speaker and mom to three adult kids, one angel dog and one diva cat.

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18 replies
  1. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I like your point about being gentle with ourselves, this seems like it should apply with other traumatic events as well. As someone who has done pottery for relaxation purpose, I also want to add that it can also be tremendously rewarding, though it is harder than it looks.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Hi Melissa, thank you for your comments. I love pottery as well. It’s SO relaxing to me. I learned how to do this when I was 14 and went to class with my grandma. I loved it so much.

  2. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    Great advice! Cancer takes time to recuperate from, thank goodness there’s that option though. I’m glad you have slower steps to get back to feeling good.

  3. Reba Linker
    Reba Linker says:

    What an amazing, wise, beautiful, loving post, Tandy. You share so much wisdom here, for anyone struggling with any challenge, really, and of course, for those going through the very specific challenges of a cancer diagnosis. I love the contrast of the bucket list at the top – all the big, dramatic celebrations, like shouting form a mountaintop – and the contrast with the gentler suggestions, like coloring, eating more fruits and veggies, and practicing gratitude, which are quieter, but equally powerful and self-loving. Beautiful, beautiful post.

  4. Kristen Day
    Kristen Day says:

    Starting through your blog.. I was like.. a lot of these things are what I am going through post Harvey, and many others may go through post a detrimental event, illness or the like and not to compare a hurricane to cancer, or the like.. but it was interesting.. there is always a path to go through to heal. I’m so glad you made it through and alive to help others.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Oh beautiful Kristen, indeed, these tips can apply to other types of trauma, illnesses, events… and a hurricane! There is definitely always a path to healing! I hope you are making strides post Harvey to rebuild and bounce forward.

  5. Joyce Hansen
    Joyce Hansen says:

    My husband is approaching 5 years after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis. He was fortunate that they found it early and it hasn’t spread. He has always been on a regime of high-quality vitamins and food supplements. Early on, a nurse told him he had to give them up because they interred with the chemotherapy. He refused and the doctor backed him up because he is the exception to the expected statistics. Maybe, they’ll catch on at some point. Thanks for sharing such important information.

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Oh my, Joyce! I am SO glad your husband is 5 years post diagnosis and doing well! It’s so good that he was his own best advocate and shared his regimen and continued on his path of wellness HIS WAY!

    • Tandy Elisala
      Tandy Elisala says:

      Thank you so much, Candess. I appreciate your kind words. I agree that this guide is helpful for those with depression as well.

  6. Alene Geed
    Alene Geed says:

    Great article Tandy. I agree that skydiving is probably not a wise choice while in recovery?. Gentle exercise, doing something we love to do, and spending time in nature feel like perfect ways to ease back into a healthy and happy life

  7. Tamuria
    Tamuria says:

    What wonderful advice for those recovering from cancer, Tandy. I have a few loved ones who fought, and won, the battle of breast cancer. As you point out, the time it takes to heal, especially emotionally, differs for everyone. I love your advice for tackling fear.

  8. Teresa Salhi
    Teresa Salhi says:

    This article knocks it out of the park, Tandy. Your wisdom, insights, experience and humor all come together in such and empowering and transformational message for others going thru cancer. What a blessing you are!


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