Cancer and you

A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating.  No one wants to hear those three words “you’ve got cancer”.  So if you or a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, there are many steps you can take to make the going a bit easier.  Enlist the help of either a family member or close friend to be by your side and for the extra pair of ears, for support, for company during tough times.  Sure there are times you will want to be alone to think things through for yourself but that extra hug is so much needed.

Initially, you may feel that tests, treatment, and/or surgery need to be done “yesterday”.  Slow down.  Breathe.  Listen to what your heart and body is saying to you.  The breath will help to decrease stress and anxiety.  Sit comfortably with both feet flat on the floor and your hands either on both knees or placed in your lap.  Close your eyes and inhale to the count of 8…hold for the count of 8…release for the count of 8.  After a few rounds of this breathing method you will feel more in control and relaxed.

Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, begin to research the disease, oncologist(s) and other health care providers to be on your “team”.  Begin to understand what the current traditional options for treatment consist of and how to find those who may offer other/additional possibilities.  An integrative team will consist of practitioners in functional and integrative medicine.  Interview the providers you find and choose what best suits your needs.  The cancer is only a piece of what needs to be treated.  A whole body approach needs to be considered consisting of energy therapy, supplements, whole nutrient dense foods, and other possibilities to increase your immune system.

Eat whole nutrient dense foods to help decrease inflammation.  Eliminate dairy and other animal products as these can consist of hormones.  Eliminate sugar as it feeds cancer.   Research shows the average American consumes approximately 152 pounds of sugar per year.  Choose low-glycemic fruits as a dessert.  Make at least half of your plate plant rich, and (if not vegan) one quarter of your plate a lean, clean protein.  Consider purchasing a juicer and juice…juice…and juice some more.  Use organic fruit and vegetables as much as possible.  Go to www.ewg.org for information on the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen to choose appropriately.  When juicing, use a 3:1 ratio of veggies to fruit.  Adding ginger (anti-inflammatory and gut healthy) and lemon (aids in alkalinity) will add to the flavor.

The type of body care and cleaning products need to be chosen with caution.  Many personal care products contain ingredients that have not been approved by the FDA.  Companies are not required to test their products and can leave off hazardous chemicals from the ingredient list.  Many of these chemicals may increase the risk of cancer, are hormone disruptors, cause infertility and even birth defects.  Cleaning products for the home falls into the same category.  The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) provides lists of harmful chemicals.

Get up and move. Physical movement is necessary to stay strong.  Exercise boosts immunity, increases endurance, builds muscle, reduces inflammation, and provides added energy.  With daily movement, you will be better able to handle cancer treatments and procedures, and recover more quickly.  It is very important to commit to some form of exercise (yoga, Pilates, weights, swimming, Tai Chi, dance, walking) on a regular basis beginning with 10 minutes and building to 30 minutes or more.

Reduce stress.  A diagnosis of cancer can be one of the most stressful events in your life.  You need to find the best way for you to manage stress so as not to weaken your immune system, alter your sleep habits, or create more illness.  As mentioned earlier, breathing exercises is a great way to reduce many stressful situations.  Other forms of stress reduction include yoga (the added benefit of movement), meditation (even as little as 5-10 minutes is helpful), getting out in nature (again more movement), and massage ( so relaxing).  You may need to seek professional help as well since dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be extremely difficult.

Nightly restorative sleep for 7-9 hours is healing to the body allowing you to best respond to treatment(s).  If you are a coffee drinker, stop by noon.  If you drink alcohol, decrease the amount and have it with a meal.  Alcohol disrupts melatonin necessary for sleep and blood sugar levels. Start approximately one hour before you are ready to go to sleep with a nightly routine.  Take an Epsom salt bath (excellent in magnesium) with therapeutic grade essential oils, have a cup of herbal tea, or read a book/magazine.  Eliminate all electronics (TV, iPhone, computer) as these stimulate the mind.  Create a calming atmosphere.  Keep the temperature cool and dark with curtains to block all light.  Climb into bed and journal.  Write whatever comes to mind about your day. Also write about 3 things you are grateful for and why.  End with an affirmation such as “I am healing every day”.

And most importantly…believe in you.  Care and love yourself just as you are.  Be present.  Know your truth.

In the words of Buddha:

Do not dwell in the past,

Do not dream of the future,

Concentrate the mind on the present moment.


The 7 minute diagnosis

Over the years, our conventional medical system has been changing. Some say for the better…others say for the worse.  When you make an appointment to see your health care provider, you will have approximately 7 minutes in which to explain your symptoms, be examined (sometimes), and receive a diagnosis which may include blood work or other tests, and prescription(s) which may only mask symptoms or contribute to other symptoms.

Seven minutes?  That’s all? You didn’t even have the opportunity to explain those symptoms in detail.  Any triggers. Possibly highlight some family history.  Discuss any travel.  Talk about the foods you eat.  How you sleep. What you do for physical activity.  These are all important aspects of what a health appointment should include as these features are important in healing the body.

This is where integrative medicine or holistic medicine comes in.  It’s important to find a health care provider that can offer you the necessary time to listen to your symptoms/problems, and begin to delve into the root cause(s) of those symptoms.  As a health care provider, it’s important to give you, the patient/client, opportunity, information and support necessary to find health and wellness in your life.

Understand your body by listening to every little piece of information that it provides can feel like a daunting task, but indeed a necessary one.  Your body has the innate capacity to heal if you decide to take on that mission toward wellness. Your integrative practitioner will search for the root cause of your symptom(s) following a variety of different techniques.  You are an individual requiring individual attention as no two people or symptoms are alike.

Compiling a food and lifestyle journal is an important initial step for the integrative practitioner to view.  This would include everything you eat and drink, any symptoms that occur, how you sleep, when you are stressed, when and what you do for exercise, bathroom visits, and whatever else you think may be important.  Reviewing past blood work/test results and possibly the need to order other tests will also be beneficial.

Once your provider has a better understanding of the issues, you may be encouraged to explore different forms of healing such as energy medicine, whole nutrient dense foods, botanicals, bodywork, therapeutic grade essential oils, homeopathy, and physical therapy.  Being on your health journey in finding the root cause of symptoms can take time and energy and patience.

As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, once said “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” and “All disease begins in the gut”, you need to approach healing through elimination and detoxification while listening to your body as to what is causing your inflammation and energy (or lack of energy). This does not occur overnight.  It can take years of exploration, motivation and patience, while all along studying/reading everything you can get your hands on.

An integrative practitioner will examine your symptoms through a wider lens than a typical 7 minute office visit by looking at nutrition, lifestyle, sleep patterns, exercise patterns, stressors, support system, and belief system.  Today’s major chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and more) can often be reversed through lifestyle changes, nutrition, exercise, and stress management.  Sadly, many of today’s conventional practitioners do not have this kind of training necessary to help their patients/clients in this manner.  You may need to look outside the box to receive the help you need.

Finding the solution(s) to your symptoms is passionate work.  Being an investigator of your health and practicing holistic medicine is more than running off a list of diagnoses and prescribing quick, ordinary fixes.  Searching for solutions is not accomplished in a 7 minute visit.  It can be accomplished by a zealous, dedicated, enthusiastic progressive practitioner all in the name of integrative and holistic medicine.