Tag Archives: cancer

Complementary Therapy

First, it’s important to distinguish between alternative and complementary therapy.  Alternative therapy is used instead of standard or mainstream medical treatment whereas complementary therapy is used alongside conventional medical care.  Alternative therapy generally implies rejecting mainstream anti-cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery) and is largely lacking in biological and scientific evidence of efficacy and also can be of questionable safety.  Because of this the medical establishment is generally not supportive of alternative therapy. Over the past decade or so, complementary therapies have become increasingly acceptable and popular as part of cancer care and few cancer specialists would argue against the use of complementary therapies alongside conventional treatment to ease the side effects of radiation or drug therapy, strengthen the immune system and improve well-being.

Combining complementary therapies with mainstream oncology care is commonly known as integrative therapy and is a total holistic approach involving the patient’s mind, body and spirit. By supporting this approach, the cancer physician enables a patient to have an active role in their own care and this in turn improves the overall quality of cancer care and well-being of patients and their families. The ability of the patient to choose the therapy and when to have it, helps to restore some control over their life which can sometimes feel  hi-jacked by a feeling of having to passively endure their medical treatments. These non-pharmacological therapies can lift your mood and spirit, reduce anxiety and stress, alleviate symptoms and side effects such as pain and nausea, and can enhance quality of life and recovery.

There is a rich array of complementary therapies such as meditation, guided imagery, mindfulness, nutritional support, counselling, massage etc, and in The Cancer Journey – Positive Steps To Help Yourself Heal we describe lots of these.

Express Yourself

A diagnosis of cancer can make an individual feel they’ve lost control of so much resulting in both physical and psychological damage.  Doing something creative or expressive such as art, writing, gardening  or music can really help improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.  Expressing yourself through engaging in this way can give you  greater self-awareness and a positive sense of well-being and has demonstrated numerous benefits including promoting inner peace and relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety and  providing positive meaning to our lives as it helps re-focus our attention away from our illness.

Pablo Picasso is quoted as having said “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”.

In Chapter 8 of The Cancer Journey we share a few simple ideas for ways you can express yourself and  guide you to take some very easy steps to regain control and greatly enhance your well-being.

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” (Hippocrates, 460-370 BC)

Being positive and looking for ways to help yourself recover and cope with cancer can at the same time be very empowering and also very frustrating.  There is so much information on the internet, sometimes from dubious sources, that this was why the 3 of us decided to combine our individual first-hand knowledge and experience and share the things we found helpful.  It is an interesting fact that even in the span of time since we were first diagnosed, there has been a huge shift of attitude in the medical profession towards the acceptance of patients integrating self-care with conventional treatment.

One of the things we feel passionate about is encouraging recovery and supporting our bodies through really good nutrition.  Good nutrition is vitally important as it enables you to cope with the side effects of treatment, prevents weight loss and body tissue breaking down.  It also helps repair damaged tissue, fights infection and provides energy.

In Chapter 10 of The Cancer Journey we look at what really makes cancer tick and how we can change our diet to make better food choices.

How To Get The Best Out Of Your Doctors

The first thing to remember is the medical team looking after you is on your side! We have found that being polite and friendly paves the way to a better relationship with them. It can get out of hand though: Nick was blamed by the nurses on the chemo unit for them putting on weight because of the boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts which were brought in by a caring friend!

We understand how easy it is to take your frustrations out on the medical staff especially if they are administering an unpleasant procedure. We know it’s stating the obvious but they have off days too and the occasional smile or even joke from you can make all the difference.

Your doctor/consultant has gone through years at medical school and additional years of learning their speciality. Let them know how much you value and appreciate their care and expertise. However, do remember that, while you may not be medically qualified, in many respects you know your body and history better than anyone else and it will be to your benefit to assert your role as the expert on you. Never be afraid to ask about the medication you are being given and why. It is your body after all. Polly was christened, ‘Miss 24 questions’ by her medical team owing to her inquisitive and challenging nature!

Unfortunately, occasionally you meet a doctor who is lacking in people skills and who definitely has not kissed the Blarney Stone! So what can you do? Having a consultant who appears to be abrupt, aloof and uncommunicative was a predicament that one of us had to deal with. This was a particularly difficult situation as the consultant was renowned as being one of the top specialists in the country. Do you ask to be transferred to another specialist and hope they’re as good? Or do you take on the task of educating someone who is lacking in interpersonal skills and hope you can improve the relationship? Despite feeling absolutely terrible because of the treatment, our patient liked a challenge so opted for the latter! Strategies employed included always being the first to extend a hand to shake his, asking open ended questions and using the journalists favourite tool of asking ‘who, what, why, when and how’ along with some subtle mirroring of body language. With time, things started to improve. If you are interested in discovering more about communication skills see the resources page. It is useful to remember to use the ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ technique.

Be polite and gentle but firm.

For more excerpts from The Cancer Journey – Positive Steps to Help Yourself Heal, please visit us again next week for the 3rd instalment.

Your cancer diagnosis – what to do with a cancer diagnosis

Being told that you have cancer is an intensely frightening experience. Although we all react in our own unique way, for most of us it brings an overwhelming and sickening fear and feels like our world is suddenly spiralling out of our control. Often the words, ‘You have cancer’ is the last clear thing you hear in that initial appointment because the rest of the conversation becomes a blur.

Our advice for this consultation would be to take someone with you who knows you very well. While you will want to put your hands over your ears like a child who doesn’t want to hear what’s being said and hope it will go away, they will hopefully assume responsibility for hearing what will happen next and make sure your needs are met as well as making sure you get home in one piece.

Knowing how to communicate your diagnosis to friends and family can be difficult so we have provided you with some suggestions in Chapter 4 that will give you some guidance.

Here are 5 of 15 questions that will be useful to ask your doctor.

1. What tests will I need?

2. When will tests/treatment start?

3. Is surgery/treatment absolutely necessary?

4. What are my treatment choices and what are the benefits/risks of each?

5. What is the success rate of treatment for this cancer?

Stay tuned for more excerpts from The Cancer Journey – Positive Steps to Help Yourself Heal.