Monday 2 May, 2022

How to Beat Cancer Boredom

When people think of cancer, hospitals and treatments, hair loss and sickness, doctors visits and check ups come to mind. It’s busy and a lot to handle, and that is how it is. But in between all of that is a whole lot of… waiting.

There’s waiting in the hospital and waiting between treatments. More often than not, this waiting is paired with not feeling yourself – lower energy, weakness or nausea, fatigue, sadness, lost-ness, what-now?-ness.

We’ve asked people who’ve been through cancer for tips on beating boredom during cancer, and make it feel less like waiting and more like living. Here’s what they said.

Here’s what they said.

Explore a creative outlet

When you do have the energy to get creative or feel the need to express what’s happening inside, explore your creative outlets. For example, designing, drawing, doodling, painting, or playing an instrument. Though you may not realize it, picking up something creative can release pent up emotions and feelings, allowing you to express yourself through art.

You don’t have to be “good” at art or define yourself as a “creative” to pick up a pen and start doodling. Don’t go into it with the pressure of producing something or making it look good. It doesn’t have to be any good – it’s all about the process. Results have nothing to do with it.

Find something that keeps your mind busy but doesn’t drain your energy

It can be hard to beat boredom during cancer when you’re not feeling yourself. Many of the things you used to enjoy can become too draining. For example, reading and focusing on the words can be hard when you’ve got chemo brain, so try less strenuous reading. The balance is in finding something that keeps your mind busy but isn’t so stimulating that you hit a wall of exhaustion – especially if you’ve got chemo brain. Be patient with yourself and start small.

When you don’t have much energy but want to keep your mind stimulated or busy, our Frontend Developer, Charlie recommends trying out a coloring book. Learning a new hobby that you can do from the couch or in the waiting room can also feel rewarding. For example, knitting or crocheting.

Playing video games, watching feel-good movies, or tuning into podcasts or cancer documentaries (our Community Manager, Linnéa, recommends Kris Carr’s documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer) to learn about others’ cancer experience and be inspired (you can also do this in the War On Cancer app!).

Try and get outside

Taking small moments outside, whether that’s going on short walks, spending a bit of time in your outdoor space, or even opening the window, can break up the boredom.

Perhaps you have a park close to where you live that you can aim to walk to and spend a bit of time there before walking back. Or, simply go outside and do a few stretches. Adjust the activity to whatever your energy level is, but setting a goal of going outside and sticking to it will help you feel accomplished and renewed.

Stick to daily routines and enjoy them

Sticking to some daily routines like morning walks or an afternoon snack can help you look forward to something every day.

Part of the equation is not rushing through the routines. Take your time eating breakfast, having a shower, and going on a walk. This can be a nice change from the usual morning rush. Plus, these things can also be harder when going through cancer, like showering with a picc-line! Practicing presence in these moments and adjusting to make space and time to care for yourself can help you spend time in a way that benefits your physical and mental health. This can help you feel less like a patient and more like a person.

Find one thing a day to look forward to

Like carving out time for an afternoon snack, try and have one thing a day to look forward to. This can be a daily coffee or tea time, watching an episode of your favorite show at a specific time, or a phone call with someone you care about.

Create a playlist that inspires you and keep it updated

Music is a great motivator (its positive effect on the brain has been shown in a multitude of studies but we won’t go into that now). If you’re feeling bored but limited in what you can do, listen to music. Create playlists for your different moods and when you find songs that speak to you, update those playlists. It can help you feel inspired, understood, or motivated.

Here’s a War On Cancer playlist filled with music that others going through cancer find helpful. Listen here and let us know in the app or at if you’ve got any songs that inspire you and we’ll add them!

Partake in social activities without feeling the need to participate

Our relational wellbeing is equally important, even when we don’t feel like being social. Try and find ways to be part of others’ conversations and feel included, even if you don’t always want to talk or contribute. There is also power in being in someone’s presence without really doing or saying anything, and knowing you’ve got each other.

If you don’t know what to talk about or feel the need to fill the silence, play a game (our Designer, Oskar, recommends Backgammon and Linnéa recommends Wordfeud!), watch Youtube clips, or bake together. That way the focus is on something else besides feeling the need to contribute through conversation.

Scroll through the War On Cancer app

Read others’ stories and experiences and share your own in the War On Cancer app. It’s a place for you to come to connect with others who know what cancer is like, including all the boring moments. Share your story or support someone else’s and start a conversation – in the waiting room, at home, or wherever you are, directly in the app.

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