When I was planing my After Cancer Care strategy, I will never forget the advice given to me by my oncologist when I finished my round of cancer treatments at a world-renowned cancer center based in New York. I asked what else I can do now to proactively prevent another possible recurrence.
“Nothing, just make sure to keep your check-up appointments and we will do occasional scans, not yearly though as your breast tissue has been removed. Stay positive and live your life normally.”
I guess I was just too stunned, or too brain-fatigued to engage in what generally today would be my standard reaction of “Seriously? Are you kidding me…” Needless to say, I found a different oncologist to take care of me post-cancer, as well as went to work to create a Post-Cancer Care Plan to help me keep an eye on things.
Here are 8 things in my Foundational Plan that I have implemented unconditionally in my own post-cancer care.
1. Assemble A Reliable Practitioner Team
Healing from cancer, or any other chronic illness for that matter, is an ongoing journey, more like a marathon than a sprint. The end goal is equilibrium and a balanced approach to your wellbeing, rather than achieving an end to all maladies. A realistic approach is to realize that once we have had cancer, there is always the very high chance of having circulating tumor cells, or stem cells that have evaded both conventional and alternative treatments.
We can take ownership of managing our inner terrain, keeping ourselves truly nourished physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. We can become consciously aware and in-tune, realizing where our imbalances lie, and how we can address those through active lifestyle choices. This is way too daunting to try and manage on our own, so a team of practitioners that specialize in the fields mentioned above is crucial to ensuring we are guided to the best of our ability.
Members of your Post Cancer Care team can include
- standard or integrative (open to complementary approaches) oncologist
- naturopathic doctor specializing in oncology
- board-certified nutritionist with a focus on oncology care
- dentist adept at holistic care
- OBGYN adept at hormonal support that utilizes nutraceuticals and may include Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
- integrative primary care physician utilizing nutraceuticals and other therapies first in addition to prescription medication if warranted in acute conditions where a short-term outcome is targeted
- homeopath to help the body rebalance itself
- acupuncturist to help the body realign itself and to lessen acute treatment-related side effects
- personal trainer at a gym to help establish a personalized exercise regimen
- yoga or pilates instructor trained in post-cancer care
- energy healer utilizing any of the many modalities that can access subconscious emotional and energetic patterns that need to be shifted and released
- spiritual counselor, either religious or non-denominational
2. Collect Data From Targeted Lab Tests
In order to know what to do, we need to know what’s going on. Besides regular diagnostic screening such as CT and PET scans, ultrasounds and MRI’s, there are other ways of taking a peek inside to see where potential imbalances are brewing before any physical manifestation takes place. This includes lab work covered by the current health insurance system in the US, as well as functional testing which is not considered standard of care and falls under “wellness care” which is traditionally not covered.
Areas of focus include:
- Cancer biomarkers, including CTCs (Circulating Tumor Cells) and other ratios and markers that can provide clues on whether conditions are optimal for promoting tumor growth
- Inflammation markers
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hormone regulation
- Cardiovascular Health
- Gut Health
- Genetic Mutations affecting many ways a body can find equilibrium, including optimal detoxification pathways
- Toxic Burden (heavy metals, non-metals, pesticides, food additives, mold and other mycotoxins)
3. Nutraceutical Therapy and Supplements
If you have an aversion to taken pills or powders, my message to you is loud and clear: get over it! Resisting a method of personalized, targeted support that does no harm if taken under supervision and based on the results of functional tests as mentioned above, is, in my opinion, a form of self-sabotage.
We take supplements for two reasons: to address any measurable deficiencies and to help the body and its various organ systems realign themselves to be able to perform their various functions.
Let me explain.
If you are low in Vitamin D, you supplement with this single nutrient until levels have balanced out. Sometimes these singles have complementary micronutrients in a blend to help with absorption and assimilation. Vitamin D, for example, often comes in a blend that includes Vitamin K. This not only helps with Vitamin D absorption but works synergistically to help shuttle calcium into your bones, rather than promoting calcification of blood vessels. You can keep an eye on the levels of measurable, single micronutrients through annual micronutrient testing.
On the other hand, if you cannot sleep, you have nutraceutical options available to you that come in the form of blended products, with or without herbs and botanicals, that work in synergy to address a particular function, like calming your central nervous system, for example. There are many such nutraceuticals, either as singles or in blends, that have a functional role in the body and help it regain more equilibrium.
Optimizing an anti-cancer terrain relies on targeted nutraceuticals of a high quality and from reputable sources.
It is important to note that supplement intake is monitored under appropriate supervision to ascertain exact dosing and to determine whether there are potential drug-nutrient interactions if also taking prescription medications. You need to be seen and monitored by a trained functional practitioner as a member of your care team, as mentioned above.
4. Whole Foods & Beverages
It goes without saying that a foundation of your post-cancer care is eating real, whole foods, from clean sources and prepared with ingredients you can identify. You need to cook your own meals most of the time! Eating out is limited to an occasional occurrence. You want to control the quality and source of ingredients as much as you can, and this includes beverages.
Reconnecting with wholesome meals and simple beverages is a process you can teach yourself if you are not used to it. Understand that consuming contaminated foods and beverages on a regular basis contributes to inflammation and nutritional deficiencies, an environment that cancer cells can take advantage of. There are many ways in which this can be a life-altering experience for you, even with a busy lifestyle. Consistent nutritional coaching can set you up for long term success.
5. Move Your Body
I have devoted an entire chapter in my book “Confessions of a Cancer Conqueror” to this subject and will keep it short and sweet here. Besides staying trim and toned, regular exercise is a detoxification support your body is dependent upon. Your lymphatic organ system relies on muscle contraction to effectively gather and shuttle waste from its various collection sites, lymph nodes, to your organs of excretion.
Efficient waste removal is essential to survival. You need to move to obtain muscle contraction. Excessive exercise or repeated overexertion is contraindicated, a moderate regimen is perfect! Walking your dog a few times a week, riding your bike to places and skipping your car (if possible), walking stairs at work instead of using the elevator for convenience are all acceptable forms of exercise, besides a gym membership of course. Cardio (get out of breath!), muscle strengthening and stretching are 3 areas you want to focus on regularly.
6. Learn To Manage Your Stress
Having observed myself, my friends, colleagues, family and hundreds of clients, we seem to fall into two distinct categories when it comes to how we deal with stress: we either rev ourselves up and keep ourselves in a consistent state of stress perception, or we have learnt ways to either disconnect from inevitable stress and redirect our lives away from stress if that is within our control.
In other words, we chose to be the chronic complainer and self-induced martyr, or the motivated action-taker but also wise surrender-taker, depending on the type of stress experienced.
I think we all agree that in our fast-paced modern lifestyle experiencing stress is a given and often beyond our control. Nevertheless, we can influence our perception of the level and frequency of stress we are under. It requires us to be honest when we are keeping ourselves in the fast-rotating hamster wheel of chronic stress perception.
Words like “I am so stressed” uttered repeatedly and to everyone willing to listen contribute to a disempowering energetic frequency that makes it far more difficult for us to find coping solutions.
A good way to start is by setting boundaries to the levels of help we are able to dispense to others. We are taught in aviation first aid to apply an oxygen mask to ourselves first, then to others even if that is our own child. We need to keep that space where we can help ourselves first.
We need space to observe our own reactions, thoughts and beliefs. We can all be guilty of perpetuating a stress response and becoming aware of it and stopping ourselves from trotting along that path is essential to effective stress management.
7. Allow Down Time
Since when is a 24-7, 7 days a week, 365 days a year On-The-Go lifestyle conducive to longevity? Regardless of whether you love what you are doing professionally or face a long “To-Do” list to catch up with home projects, this society has lost the ability to respect the importance of “down time”.
Doing nothing productive, just chilling and taking the time to “smell the roses” or listen to chirping birds. Without the often-associated guilt-trip for not being productive enough.
Too often I hear clients sigh they do not have enough time to even meet a friend. I think we are all guilty of this, yet once we make the time in our busy schedules, I challenge you to observe how being able to nurture friendships makes you feel! Very few of us thrive in isolation. In case you are wondering, social media connections are not what I mean, by the way…. I am talking about old-fashioned phone calls or in-person meet ups. The energetic exchange is of an entirely different caliber and life-force enhancing.
8. Keep The Perspective
Being pro-active requires us to set personal and professional goals and intentions, we research and inform ourselves and actively tackle our post-cancer care. The more we do, the more we receive the plethora of news and information we all have continuous access to nowadays.
Sometimes it is difficult to disentangle ourselves from what we are bombarded with, becoming overwhelmed with the seemingly endless stream of things we ought to include and be cautious of. It is easy to get lost in the detail. I apply a “Keep the Perspective” rule when that happens to me, taking a step back and trying to get a general overview, using a trusted source to discuss issues with, and realizing there is a forest for all the trees.