PROFESSOR KAROL SIKORA: The king wants to get back to work. These are the surprising things I would advise him as a top cancer specialist…

The king is eager to resume his royal duties and remains “extremely frustrated” that his recovery from cancer is taking “slightly longer” than expected, according to reports quoting his cousin Peter Phillips.

It’s only been two months since we learned of the monarch’s diagnosis, so you can expect me, as a cancer consultant, to push for a more cautious approach and a longer period of recovery and rehabilitation.

Actually, I’m completely in favor of the king resuming his royal duties, but this is crucial: only as long as he feels like it.

Everyone in the position of the king must rest when necessary, writes professor Karol Sikora. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to have too much time to mope

Because in my nearly 50 years of working in cancer care, I have seen countless patients who feel as good as rain at the beginning of their treatment, only to be overcome with fatigue at the end of treatment.

The point is that we live in a world where everything is instantly available or done, and time has become a precious commodity – and this is at odds with recovery from any illness. Cancer treatment in particular can take months, if not a year or more, before it comes back.

That said, the speed at which someone recovers from cancer diagnosis and treatment will always vary greatly depending on the type of cancer, the treatment program, and the patient’s individual health status and mental resilience.

There is usually surgery to recover from – which in itself can be extremely tiring as the body reacts as if to trauma and prioritizes expending energy on healing tissues.

Chemotherapy or radiotherapy can then follow. A treatment intended to kill tumors and cancer cells inevitably causes damage to tissues throughout the body. And this can affect metabolism, leading to unusual fatigue that can last six months to a year after the end of treatment.

Fatigue is the most common side effect of most cancer treatments and is often what patients find most disruptive, and the biggest limitation to a return to ‘normal’ life. And this is happening at a time when a patient has to constantly travel back and forth to the hospital.

What would happen if you worked through this exhaustion? Add to that the nausea that can affect appetite, and it’s easy to see why some require a long recovery period and why getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a healthy diet becomes an incredibly important part of any recovery.

Remember that the King is 75 – an age when cell turnover slows down – meaning his recovery may not be as quick as that of, say, a 30-year-old. But on the other hand, men and women in their 70s today are generally much healthier than those who lived twenty or thirty years ago, and are better able to cope with cancer therapy. In addition, medications and treatments are a lot gentler than before, with fewer side effects than ever.

Charles imagined himself reading cards and letters sent by well-wishers after his diagnosis

Charles imagined himself reading cards and letters sent by well-wishers after his diagnosis

The Princess of Wales released a video last week announcing her diagnosis

The Princess of Wales released a video last week announcing her diagnosis

In addition to the physical considerations surrounding recovery, there are also the psychological ones – having cancer can be mentally exhausting.

A very difficult impact of any cancer journey to measure is the way it affects the mind and spirit – and this can also be exhausting.

We doctors can sometimes be accused of being so focused on the technological procedures involved in diagnosis and treatment that we lose sight of the fact that every patient is a human being with their own ups and downs.

Probably the biggest psychological barrier most people face with cancer is the never-ending uncertainty: treatment inevitably involves a series of steps, each leading to uncertainty.

Some people can deal with this much better than others.

I believe one of the most difficult challenges is facing the fact that no one lives forever. Of course, we all know this objectively, but most of us go through our lives in a state of comfortable denial.

Then, with each scan and test, the cancer patient is forced to face the possibility that this may not work – a challenge that can be difficult and tiring.

So everyone in the position of the king must rest when necessary. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to have too much time to sit around and be miserable.

In my opinion, it is much better to return to your normal life structure if you are able to do so. If you enjoy your work, there’s no doubt that doing something you love can help rebuild your self-confidence, as the unexpected with cancer can also affect your self-esteem.

The busier you are, the less time you have to worry and think inwardly.

A graduate return to work is probably just what King Charles needs. Even better if those who manage his schedule allow him time for complementary therapies such as massage, acupuncture, relaxation therapy or yoga.

Although the clinical evidence for this is quite weak, research shows that anything that helps you manage stress can improve your quality of life and relieve depression, anxiety and symptoms related to the cancer and its treatment.

Everyone copes with the psychological impact of cancer differently, and in my experience, those who are supported by a support network of loved ones, friends and family cope better.

Looking at the situation facing King Charles and his daughter-in-law Princess Catherine, I predict that both will get through this stressful time well.

And when they’ve both finished their treatment, I encourage them to celebrate: book a holiday or at least open a bottle of champagne!

Whatever your background, it’s very important to have something to look forward to.


  1. Keep a positive attitude – don’t crumble – there is and look for light at the end of the tunnel
  2. Talk openly about your cancer and treatment with your loved ones and others around you. It never helps to cover up, cover up, or hide what you’re going through. Research shows that a supportive social network helps with this.
  3. Build structure into your day – plan activities that you know you can handle, and rest as and when you need to.
  4. Gentle exercise, especially walking, is great for mental and physical recovery (research shows that exercise helps improve feelings of well-being and quality of life)
  5. Eat good. There is no need to make extreme changes, and you may not feel hungry occasionally, but try to consume fresh vegetables, fruits and legumes and avoid fatty foods that are difficult to digest and process. Why specifically oily feet? Food should be nutritious, but above all enjoyable.