Life changing thoughts for cancer patients
Whether or not you’re living with cancer like I was, these tips are universal. I know you’re going to find something (or maybe a few things!) that resonates with you.
So, let’s dive in…
For many patients, cancer is no longer a death sentence.
Really take that in. The oncologist I spoke with gave me a 16% chance of surviving 5 years. And my surgeon told me to do the chemotherapy treatments to buy myself some time. Thankfully, both were wrong and I didn’t listen. If you’ve been given statistical projections or an expiration date, there’s a good chance your well-meaning doctor could be wrong, too.
Once I found a better option for healing from my “dis-ease”, my entire world opened up. As you may know, I had a very aggressive colon cancer tumour that had metastasised to my lymph nodes and small intestine, ovary and stomach muscle. In fact, today I call myself a cancer thriver and I bet that no matter what your personal, medical or emotional pickle is (cancer or something else), you can be a thriver, too.
I would never say that life with cancer is easy, but it can be quite stunning and rich, even in the midst of the chaos. These tips have helped me feel better and get stronger along the way. I think they’ll be useful for you or someone you love, too.
My Tips for Healthy Living with Cancer
When the going gets tough, take a really deep breath.
This is the first (and most important) move you can make when the shit hits the fan. There will be endless ideas, advice, theories and even some medical bullying slung your way. Your breath is the gateway to your intuition—it will help you navigate the noise. Breathe and listen. Your breath also has the power to reduce stress (more on that below). When we’re in prolonged fight or flight mode, it’s hard to make decisions and easy to get depressed, anxious and exhausted. Breathe.
Your oncologist (or other doctor) probably isn’t enough.
Build an integrative team. Integrative and functional medicine practitioners treat your whole body, not just the symptoms. How do they do that? With dietary recommendations, targeted supplements, IVs, stress management tips and other integrative therapies that improve your overall well-being, including boosting your immune system.
Reduce inflammation. Eat plants.
In a nutshell: Embrace gorgeous greens, (beans & legumes if your gut can digest them), nuts, seeds, whole grains, sea veggies, fruits and vegetables galore. Crowd out inflammatory, hormone-filled dairy and other conventionally farmed animal products (even organic) by filling your plate with plant-strong, whole foods. I can’t go without animal protein, my body needs it, however its not the star of the show on my plate. Small portions of organic chicken or fresh fish is good for me.
And while you’re at it, dump the processed white stuff, especially sugar (it feeds cancer, creates inflammation and weakness your immune system). Speaking of sugar, choose low-glycemic fruits and desserts. If you can make plants your main dish and think of everything else as a condiment. If you don’t ditch animal products, reduce your consumption to 2-3 times per week and avoid factory farm products at all costs.
Juice your ass off. Not sugary juices.
Avoid store bought processed juices and choose fresh, green, healing juices that you make yourself. Organic is definitely best if you can afford it. If not, check out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for guidance on avoiding chemical-laden produce.
Without a shadow of a doubt, my daily, low-glycemic green juice practice has allowed me to thrive in spite of my post surgery obstacles. My basic juicing rule for patients is a 3:1 ratio—three veggies to one low-glycemic fruit. You can also add lemon, as it has very little sugar. Ginger rocks too. Juices are nutrient dense, hydrating, energising and medicinal. If you only have a blender, that’s great, too. Make green smoothies instead.
Choose safe personal care and cleaning products.
The average person uses 9 personal care products per day containing about 126 chemical ingredients. In addition, companies aren’t required to test their products and are allowed to leave hazardous chemicals off their labels. So, it’s no surprise that many of the chemicals found in personal care products have been linked to increased risks of cancer, infertility, birth defects, hormone disruption, etc. Babies, children, teens, adults—we’re all exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis and there’s still much we do not know about their long-term health effects. The same holds true for household cleaning products. Is your laundry detergent safe? Find out.
Move that body.
While it’s important to rest, lack of exercise actually speeds up muscle wasting, weakens your endurance and immunity, and creates more fatigue. Your body needs to move and stay strong. You’ll handle cancer treatments and other medical procedures better and recover faster when you have more muscle tone and flexibility. Did I mention proper bowel movements? Yeah… movement helps with that, too (pun intended!). Exercise also reduces inflammation and help with detoxification of toxins stored in your cells. Studies have shown that even short bursts of exercise can have impressive results for your health. You don’t need a lot of time or fancy equipment to make a difference. But, you gotta get out of your chair and commit to some form of moderate exercise on a regular (almost daily) basis. Light weights, yoga, dance, walking, swimming, martial arts—whatever rings your bell! Start with 10 minutes a day and see if you can work up to 30-60 minutes (do your best and always listen to your body).
Sleep like a champ.
A proper night’s sleep, especially the hours before midnight, will help you heal—for real. Not only will you be able to respond to treatments better, but restful sleep activates your body’s own regenerative abilities. Keep your room cool, block out all light, dump the coffee by noon—or switch to green tea (coffee = 140 milligrams of caffeine per serving, green tea = 25 milligrams)—ditch the alcohol (alcohol disrupts melatonin and blood sugar), take a sleep support supplement, give yourself time to wind down and set a loving intention: May I be peaceful, calm and sleepy!
Wrangle your stress.
Stress releases a cascade of hormones in your body. This is all well and good when you need to run or move out of the way quickly. But when the source of your stress is prolonged, like a cancer diagnosis that takes years or even a lifetime to manage, stress can become your number one enemy. Being diagnosed with cancer is one of the most traumatic events that can happen in anyone’s life. But, there are ways to manage the panic so it doesn’t weaken your immune system, disrupt your sleep and create more illness in your body. Meditation, hiking in the bush, pottery, drawing, gardening, yoga—anything that gets you out of your head and into your heart/body. In addition, you may need some good ole professional support. Yup, a shrink or a coach like me to help you figure out what works sweet for you, and don’t forget a good ole massage from time to time. We hold so many issues in our precious tissues.
Accept where you are right now.
Unconditional acceptance is the path of the spiritual warrior. It takes courage to embrace your current situation—to be present and loving toward yourself exactly as you are. You are your reality. You are your truth. Can you change? Absolutely! But, even talking about change puts us in the future. And while there’s definitely a time for that, building a strong foundation in the now will allow you to consistently love and care for yourself. Stop for a minute. Give yourself props. Take in your good. If you’re hell bent on strategising about all that could be better, then you must promise to give equal time to what’s amazing right now.
Release your emotions.
If you’re feeling angry or frustrated, this can be a signal that something needs to change. If you don’t change the situations or thought patterns that are causing these uncomfortable, “red flag” emotions, you will continue to be triggered by them. And if were not dealing with the emotions that we feel, they can cause problems with your physical and emotional health. It’s important to listen to your emotions and then take steps to let them go.
When I was first diagnosed, my burning goal was remission. Anything else seemed like colossal failure. And, even worse—my fault. My internal head chaos was the biggest part I had to work on. Dealing with my emotions instead of suppressing them was incredibly important. Six years later, I’ve learned that we can live with cancer. I accept wonderful me, cancer and all. Our emotions are always a work in progress. Does that mean that I’ve given up on my health? Of course not! It means I love and respect myself no matter what crazy situations I find myself in.
Acceptance is different from quitting. It means that no matter what happens, you won’t abandon yourself in your time of need. And, here’s the part that contributes to your overall well-being: Acceptance allows you to rest, renew and replenish.
Life doesn’t start when “this, that or the other thing” is resolved. Life is now & it’s great!
Don’t waste another day, month or year losing out on your precious life. Get the help you need right now so that you can get on and live the life you were born to live.
I hope you’ll give these tips a try. Remember, you don’t have to transform your life overnight. Small, manageable changes go a long way when it comes to feeling better.
You are a treasured member of my community and I love you. Keep taking care of yourself.