Cancer: Three Important Things We Can Do To Help Ourselves

Posted in Cancer on July 19th, 2010 by Dr.P :) – Comments Off on Cancer: Three Important Things We Can Do To Help Ourselves

I’ve been absent for a few weeks while I underwent my second big surgery to remove the remaining cancer tumors in my liver. Fortunately, the surgery went very well, and I am on the road to a good recovery. All the docs, nurses, and staff at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville are nothing less than fantastic, and I am very grateful for their amazing talents and outstanding care.

It certainly is a relief to know that the cancer we had detected at diagnosis is now all gone. After some rest and then a few more chemo treatments, I’ll be doing my best to stay healthy and do my part to prevent recurrence as best as I can. I know that three things are key: physical exercise, healthy eating, and a good attitude. From what I have read in books like “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber, these three things are extremely important, not only for preventing recurrence, but for reducing fatigue, pain, side effects from treatment, and increasing quality of life.

I mention these three things because I have seen so many cancer patients struggle with them. Luckily, as a former athlete, I have experienced the benefits of exercise when I don’t feel well. I have found that just getting up and moving a little bit, even taking a brief walk, helps me to feel better. I have also been a vegetarian by default since getting married as my husband is a vegetarian and likes to cook. However, we do eat fish and eggs, and I’ll eat some chicken from time to time. So, my diet doesn’t need to change too much. We have been eating organic vegetables, reducing processed sugars in our diet, and introducing other “anticancer” foods and herbs like turmeric, yogurt and green tea. I believe my attitude is pretty good as I am able to be present with what is going well and what I appreciate in life. I have had moments of dark thinking, of course, but I am able to move myself out of that and spend time with more positive thinking. Belleruth Naparstek has some wonderful cancer-specific guided imagery recordings that you can download and use to help improve your state of mind. Of course, on there are also guided imagery exercises, the CBT Workshop to help with more positive thinking, and the Stress Management Workshop.

I strongly encourage any of you that might be struggling with cancer to do what you can to get regular exercise (check with your doctor about this), feed your body healthy foods it can use to help you get better, and remain aware of how your attitude impacts your mood and behaviors. When it comes to cancer, we must do all that we can to help our bodies fight off and recover from this disease.

Dr.P :)

Cancer: A Mind-Altering Experience

Posted in Cancer on July 5th, 2010 by Dr.P :) – Comments Off on Cancer: A Mind-Altering Experience

For many of those with cancer, I’m sure life before the diagnosis seemed normal with the usual activity-filled days, thinking about what needs to be done, what will be going on tomorrow, etc. We take life and our future for granted. However, the moment you get the diagnosis of cancer, all that changes quickly and dramatically. For me, the news was surreal, and sometimes it still is. I have always been a healthy person, an athlete, and in recent years, a vegetarian. While I didn’t go through the “why me?” despair, cancer did stop me in my tracks in terms of how I think about life, my relationships, and my future. Perhaps my work and study in psychology has given me the tools to handle the normal distress, grief, and fear that goes along with a diagnosis of cancer. Nevertheless, having cancer and going through the very difficult treatment of it is certainly a mind-altering experience.

As I talk to people with cancer and read articles and news about this disease, it has become apparent that those with healthy or positive attitudes about their situation are the ones that seem to do better in the long run. They do better with treatment, recovery, prognosis, etc., not to mention simply enjoying what truly matters to them in a more powerful, rich manner.

Being in the present moment is an important part of a healthy mindset. Those of use with cancer, and those struggling with other difficulties such as depression, can benefit by being present with what is happening now. This may be enjoying the taste of every bit of a favorite meal, watching the beauty of clouds floating by and changing shapes, fully immersing yourself in a conversation with a good friend, and so forth. All thoughts about worries or fears of the future are set aside. Thoughts of loss or sadness of the past are brushed away. All that matters is now.

I have certainly had my darker, fearful moments thinking about future possibilities for myself. It’s normal to go there once in a while, but it’s important not to stay there. When I find myself having these thoughts, I acknowledge them, but I also move myself into more positive thoughts—what I am grateful for, the recovery I hope to have, and the peace of the present moment.

Whether you are struggling with a medical or mental health condition, you will benefit from healthy, positive thinking and being in the present moment. The five Mindfulness Meditations at the end of the Online Relaxation Exercises page are wonderful for helping you be present with yourself. You might check these out to help with this process.

Dr.P :)