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.
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.
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.