The Importance of Hobbies During and After Cancer Treatment

by Jane Ashley

How Hobbies Keep Your Mind Straight

Hobbies are a big boost to our mental health. Hobbies provide mental relief from the stresses of daily life — whether it comes from our job, our family dynamics, a school problem involving one of our children, our cancer, a health problem of our spouse, parents or children, car repairs or home appliance repairs. It seems that we never catch a break.


Hobbies recharge our spirits. For me, hobbies allow my “inner child” to enjoy some ME TIME. Whatever we love to do can be considered a hobby – whether it’s cooking, wood carving, golf or other sport, needlework, gardening, walking, playing or listening to music — setting aside time to recharge ourselves helps us cope the daily stresses of life.

Caregivers, don’t forget to set aside some time for yourself and your favorite hobby. Setting aside time for our hobbies is essential to our being a good caregiver. The stresses and frustrations of caregiving are relieved by doing something that we love. And we’ll be a better and happier caregiver.

Why are hobbies important during cancer treatment?

Let’s face it. The diagnosis of cancer takes us to one of the low points in our lives. We are afraid, stressed and anxious. We may feel alone and isolated. Treatments and the travel related to our treatment cause fatigue. It seems that we have nothing to look forward to except treatments, side effects of treatment and medical bills.

But there is something that is always there for us. Our hobbies are always there. We can pick up the book that we are reading and escape. We can carry our needlework with us to occupy those hours in the chemo chair. We can do some wood carving on the back porch or in the den. We can play nine holes of golf with a buddy. We can watercolor a beach scene, fondly remembered from a past vacation.


Our hobbies allow us to escape into a different part of our brain and give us respite from our cancer treatment. When we focus all of our attention on a topic or activity that we love, we don’t worry – we are absorbed and are living in the now.

Our hobbies need not be elaborate or structured. A morning walk while your favorite cup of coffee brews is sufficient as a new hobby.

Why try a new hobby after our treatment ends?

Many cancer patients experience a period of self-discovery after our treatments are done. Cancer changes us, and we need to make peace with our new normal. Some people decide to change jobs. Others retire if they are old enough or forced to retire because of their physical condition. Some survivors decide to work part-time to have more time to do the things they want to do. Other survivors decide to do some of the things always deferred until later — perhaps fear of recurrence enters into our decisions or we realize that life is a treasure to embrace and it’s time to live in the now.

Hobbies enrich daily life. We may have to adjust our expectations to fit our current abilities. But if we open our hearts and minds to all of the opportunities we have, we can make our life rich and full of activities. Maybe we can’t play softball any longer, but we can take up golf. 

Perhaps we can’t do a triathlon now, but we can run a 5K. Maybe we can coach soccer or become a referee. Adjustment to our new normal after cancer means accepting what’s feasible and reasonable for us to do now and in the future. We might start with an easier new hobby and rebuild our stamina so that we can resume our old hobby.

Adult Coloring Books

Whatever you do, do something. Don’t just sit there. It’s easy to fall into depression after our cancer treatment ends. Just remember — we went through all of our treatment so that we could live — so part of the joy of life is seeing more and doing more.

Taking up a new hobby need not be expensive. We can learn many new hobbies by watching YouTube — knitting, crocheting, painting are just a few skills that we can acquire by watching YouTube. Our local colleges have lots of adult education classes at reasonable costs. Museums offer seminars and other educational programs for free or at low cost. Senior centers are a great way to learn a new hobby from someone in an existing group. Facebook has lots of free groups to learn new skills — I joined a closed Facebook group to learn more about watercolor painting and I’m loving interacting with new people who are also interested in art.

Can’t decide what kind of hobby you might like to try?

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t think of anything that you’d like to do. Is there a Hobby Lobby near you? Devote a couple of house and slowly walk through every aisle, and you’ll be amazed at the variety of hobbies that people enjoy. If you’re in a rural area, browse their website to look at the myriad of activities you might enjoy. Sporting good shops and websites are a great source of sporting related hobbies that might interest you.

Here’s a list of possible hobbies that you might enjoy.

Adult coloring books
Animals, large and small — from horses and goats to cats, dogs and birds
Antiques or junk collecting
Art — acrylic, watercolor or oil painting , stained glass or artsy crafts, like Rock Painting or Zentangle
Bird watching , bird feeders in the yard, bird photography
Board games
Bonsai tree sculpting
Car restoration
Chickens — a chicken coop and a few chickens will provide fresh eggs and hours of enjoyment
Coin collecting — from old pennies to silver dollars, collecting old coins is interesting and could become profitable
Cooking, baking or barbecuing 
Creative writing — poetry, blog posts or start the book that you’ve always wanted to write
Cricut crafting for quotes and graphic designs
Crossword puzzles, very popular during chemo to pass the time
Dollhouses and miniatures
Facebook games like Pirates of Fortune, Criminal Case, Candy Crush Saga, Pet Rescue Saga or Zynga Polka — these are all free and are a good distraction if you are homebound or bored
Fishing, whether it’s on the local river or lake or a neighbor’s small pond
Gardening, flowers or vegetables — in the yard or just pots on the patio
Glass crafting, including stained glass designs
Leather crafting
Metal detectors — fun on the beach or lakeshore or on a neighbor’s old property (with permission, of course)
Model kits
Mosaics using broken plates, tiles or glass beads
Music — from listening to playing to becoming part of a choir, singing group or band
Needlework, including knitting , crocheting , needlepoint , counted cross stitch and quilting
Pets – house pets or activities with pets, like agility, dog shows, cat shows or being a foster parent to a rescued animal
Photography — there are many newer and affordable cameras that take excellent quality photographs. Choose your subjects from flowers or birds, historic buildings or modern architecture
Pottery making — take a class before you invest in the equipment

The sky’s the limit. Oops…it looks like I omitted sky diving.

Well, you get my point. Enjoy the life that you’ve earned from completing your cancer treatment. ENJOY your new life that includes hobbies.

Would you like your photos of your hobby added to this post? Post them on the Pinboard at WhatNext and we will add them. Show us what keeps your mind and body active!

The photos below are from WhatNexters and their hobbies

Cllinda Granddaughter Cllinda Granddaughternatalie Cllindacookies

The photos above are from Cllinda outfits knitted for her granddaughters and some cookies for us! I just can't figure out how to get them out of the computer!

Boise B Victory Garden Ix

BoiseB's Victory Garden number IX

Po18guy Cycling

po18guy Cycling

Carool's Paintings

Carool's Artwork on display at an art exhibit

Jamie Cycling

Jamie cycling after completing treatments 

My HobbiesMy Hobby Sign

GregP_WN's hobbies, woodworking, music, and bikes. The sign was made with my CNC Router for our Aunt

Buckeye Shelbys Cat

BuckeyeShelby's cat. She keeps her busy.

Skyemberr Jewelry Skyemberr Beadweaving

Hadmade jewelry by Skyemberr

Pauline J Afghans Pauline J Bible Cover Pauline J American Doll Clothes

Knitting and Crocheting items from PaulineJ

Jane A Photography House Finch Jane A Lake Sinclair 

Jane A Water Color Painting 

A water color painting to the above and some photography shots from JaneA

Gabba Coloring

Adult coloring books are a great way to keep your mind busy. Those above are from Gabba

Live With Cancer With Barney N Cotton

LiveWithCancer with her dogs Barney and Cotton at the agility course. Running the agility trials has been a hobby for them for years. 

Cllinda Disc Cloth

Above is a wash cloth made by Cllinda while watching the boats come and go.

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